The standard definitions prevalent in the society of a beautiful body usually revolve around adjectives like lean and thin. And anyone diverging from the norm might not be lucky enough to garner the best of appreciations and praises. With various distorted perceptions of beauty circulating around, the pressure to conform to the fixed parameters of beauty can be overwhelming.
As a result, a large number of people end up feeling ashamed of their bodies instead of admiring and enjoying them. In fact, the stress to have a size zero figure and appear picture-perfect can be incredibly high in the case of youngsters. In several cases, such stress and pressure can even give rise to various mental problems.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental health condition
One of the effects of the above stress is the constant fear of gaining weight which leads to restrictions on food intake and eventually triggers eating disorders like anorexia nervosa. Commonly diagnosed among females, a large proportion of males is also afflicted with this disease.
Since the entire focus of people suffering from anorexia nervosa is concentrated on food and weight issues, they are unable to concentrate on other aspects of their lives. The limitation on energy intake and excessive indulgence in exercise can worsen the symptoms of the illness and cause further mental health complications, such as irritability, social withdrawal, excessive fear and distorted perception about body.
With risk factors ranging from the growing cultural pressure on ‘thinness’ to the attitude of perfectionism, anorexia nervosa is one of the diseases with the lowest recovery rate. By setting unrealistic standards, people suffering from anorexia nervosa experience a range of other psychological problems, including difficulties in concentration, low self-esteem, sensitivity to any kind of remarks related to food and weight, increased rigidity, etc.
A challenging disease to tame, holistic recovery from anorexia nervosa requires an interdisciplinary team of medical care providers, like a doctor, mental health specialist, dietitian, etc. With the emergence of many innovative treatments in the field of eating disorders, a team of researchers from the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and King’s College London reviewed many of them to understand their relevance.
No one treatment best for treating anorexia nervosa
Based on eight studies on 833 teen patients and 11 studies on 1,257 adult patients, the researchers determined the importance of different treatment approaches by comparing their outcomes with each other. In addition to the published studies, they also reviewed many unpublished and ongoing studies.
While family-based interventions were considered effective for adolescents with anorexia nervosa, a number of individual psychotherapies showed positive results in the case of adults. After comparing the results from group therapies and family therapies, the researchers found none to be superior to the other. Moreover, there was no remarkable difference in the results.
Similarly, the treatments used for adults, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), focal psychodynamic psychotherapy (FPT), Maudsley model of anorexia nervosa treatment for adults (MANTRA) or specialist supportive clinical management (SSCM), showcased similar outcomes. On different parameters, like speed of weight gain, long-term global outcomes, etc., some benefits were seen in patients being treated with enhanced levels of CBT, FPT and MANTRA, compared to those receiving standard treatment and SSCM.
Among teenagers, the concept of day care and a higher energy regime (1,200 kcals/day) was found to be inexpensive and effective in ensuring weight gain. Moreover, medications like olanzapine improved weight gain in adults. One of the most explored treatment approach across all past studies was cognitive remediation therapy (CRT) that showed enhanced cognitive functions among people with anorexia nervosa.
Some of the exposure therapies led to improvement in mood, self-esteem and distorted perception of body image. These techniques succeeded in targeting fear and anxiety among patients. However, the potential of neuromodulation treatments is still being explored.
Recovery road map
Based on the above findings, it is once again clear that there is no specific treatment for patients wrestling with the challenges of anorexia nervosa. Experts need to determine an appropriate treatment based on the safety and needs of individual patients. With so much research and development occurring in the field of treatments for anorexia nervosa, there is an increased optimism among medical practitioners.
If you or your loved one is suffering from mental illnesses due to eating disorders, contact the California Mental Health Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 to gain access to details of mental health treatment centers in California. You can even chat online with one of our trained representatives to know more about residential mental health facilities in California.