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Anorexia Nervosa: Psychological and Physiological Therapy

Anorexia Nervosa: Overview and Symptoms

Becoming infamously well-known in the 20th century, when beauty standards reinforced the images of painfully slim people, anorexia nervosa (AN) still remains one of major health concerns. Although the phenomenon of anorexia nervosa is typically viewed as the effect of the environmental influences, particularly, the absence of food or specific body proportion standards foisted on people, the nutrition process is inhibited by a combination of environmental and biological factors, therefore, leading to a rapid drop in the patient’s body mass. Consequently, the treatment strategy for addressing the subject matter must be based on the recognition of the psychological issues that the patient may have and the external factors that enhance it, as well as the biological agents that define the development of the disorder.

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The symptoms of AN can be split into physical and psychological ones. Among the former, a drastic loss in weight needs to be brought up first as the crucial factor in determining the disorder. The latter, in its turn, manifests itself in the fact that an AN patient is typically overly concerned with their weight. To be more exact, the victim of AN usually assumes that they are overweight or even obese and, therefore, try to reduce the daily intake of food to the minimum, which affects their health negatively. At the earliest stages of the disorder development, however, the patient may refuse to eat certain types of food as opposed to ceasing to consume any meals at all.

One must admit that, though often aggravated by media as the latter foists ridiculous beauty standards on people, AN may also be the result of a faulty biological makeup of the patient (Vanderlinden et al., 2014). For instance, a recent study points out that there is, in fact, a genetic predisposition to developing AN due to the malfunction of the ventromedial and lateral hypothalamus (Bezance & Holliday, 2013).

To be more exact, researches reveal that one experiences the sensation of saturation once the brain areas mentioned above are stimulated. Consequently, it will be reasonable to assume that, in case of a trauma that affects the specified brain areas permanently, one is likely to experience the feeling of saturation on a regular basis, therefore, having no urge to eat despite the lack of essential nutrients.


Seeing that the problem under analysis is twofold, i.e., requires addressing both psychological and physiological aspects of one’s functioning, it will be necessary to split the treatment process into two key phases. While there is a very thick line between addressing the physical and the psychological issues identified, it is still recommended that the therapies should occur simultaneously; as a result, the treatment is likely to come into effect within a relatively short amount of time.

The psychological obstacles that stand in the patient’s way on gaining the required weight and getting healthy, in their turn, can be removed by raising the patient’s self-esteem and allowing them to realize that they are capable of having a positive self-image that is not based on the current standards promoted by media. The specified issue can be addressed by adopting the tools such as regular interventions regarding the improvement of their self-image.

In addition, the problem concerning the lack of knowledge about proper nutrition deserves to be brought up as one of the aspects that the therapy must address. Apart from improving the patient’s perception of their selves, the therapist will have to consider providing counseling to help the target audience get rid of the misconceptions and myths that may have been impeding the development of a proper diet for them (Vancampfort et al., 2014).

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The physical issue requires the redesign of the patient’s diet and its enrichment with the food that is high in fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, etc. Seeing that the physiological treatment presupposes that the patient is ready for a regular intake of food, it is imperative that the first psychological intervention should be efficient enough to convince the patient to alter the current eating behavior. Apart from making the patient gain the required weight to maintain their health status at the required level, the physiological intervention is also aimed at reducing the risks of the patient contracting an infection.

Seeing that the patient’s organism is likely to lack the strengths required to withstand the attack of the emergent health hazards, it is reasonable to assume that the patient is especially vulnerable to the external factors in the first few days of the treatment provision. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that the dangers above are addressed, and the chances of the patient contracting a disease are driven to zero.

One must also bear in mind the fact that the patient is likely to be emotionally unstable at the first stages of the treatment. Therefore, suggesting that the family members, relatives, friends, etc., should provide support to the patient. Thus, the process of recovery is going to occur at a comparatively faster pace (DMS-V, 2013). Furthermore, to promote the safety of the patient, the therapist will have to adopt the approach based on the use of emotional intelligence.


To attain the goals listed in the psychological therapy section, one will have to adopt the approach based on the use of the cognitive behavioral theory. The given approach will help understand the motivations of the patient as far as the choice of food is concerned and, therefore, alter the patient’s intentions so that healthy nutrition could be promoted as the foundational principle for dieting.

As far as the physiological aspect of the issue is concerned, the use of the tools such as the nasogastric tube and the percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube is crucial to the outcome of the therapy. The devices above will help deliver the required nutrients to the patient’s body without causing the food rejection; as a recent case shows, the specified phenomenon is quite common in AN victims (Bezance & Holliday, 2013).


The phenomenon of anorexia nervosa has been a topical health issue for a while due to a variety of factors. While the psychological ones, i.e., the negative body image, is the primary source of the disorder development, the biological premises for AN to occur are not to be overlooked, either, especially when addressing the issue. For instance, the design of therapy needs to incorporate both components is that the patient could resume proper dieting and gain weight reasonably.

Particularly, the psychological aspect of the treatment is essential for both the understanding of the nature of the problem and the process of molding further eating behavior patterns. The significance of the physiological treatment is not to be underrated, either. While the patient may recognize the need to comply with the health diet requirements, the transfer from the current eating patterns to the desirable ones needs to be gradual so that further health complications should not occur. Herein the need to design the diet that will contain the required nutrients and at the same time guide the patient from the current unhealthy state to a complete recovery is essential.

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The problem of AN is getting increasingly topical nowadays, when the influence of media has been reinforced with the help of information technology. Thus, it is crucial that the patient should receive information regarding correct eating patterns and the threat of eating disorders.

Reference List

Bezance, J., & Holliday, J. (2013). Adolescents with anorexia nervosa have their say: A review of qualitative studies on treatment and recovery from anorexia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 21(5), 352-360.

DMS-V. (2013). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

Vanderlinden, J., Hert, M. D., Soundy, A., Adamkova, M., Skjaerven, L. H., Catala´n-Matamoros, D., Gyllensten, A. L., Gomez-Conesa, A., & Probst, M. (2014). A systematic review of physical therapy interventions for patients with anorexia and bulemia nervosa. Disability and Rehabilitation, 36(8): 628–634.

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