This is a condition which tends to become apparent in adolescence and may occur in young people of either sex. An important feature of Anorexia Nervosa is that patients limit their food intake to such a degree that they loose a great deal of weight. In severe cases the individual may starve him or her self to a life threatening level.
Despite the fact that they are considerably under weight these patients often still regard themselves as being fat.
As a result of the restricted diet, girls will often stop having their monthly periods.
Although apparently the anorexia is confined to one member of the household, it is frequently found that the problem is bound up with the family dynamics.
The first objective of any treatment programme is to encourage the patient to increase their food intake. Patients are often highly resistant to any intervention which might increase their weight and it generally requires many months of regular psychotherapy before any weight gain is evident. Once there are signs that the patient is beginning to eat a more normal diet then the therapist can focus on some of the underlying causes of the Anorexia Nervosa. It is important to stress that the treatment of this disorder requires considerable patience and expertise and it should only be undertaken by a qualified and experienced therapist. There is no quick cure for this problem and the patient will need to be in on-going individual psychotherapy for a considerable period of time.