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Anorexia May Strike Twice

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Psychological Medicine released results of an ongoing study by the University of Toronto and Toronto General Hospital that suggests recovering anorexics are prone to relapse.

Out of the 51 patients in the study, 35 percent fell back into anorexia within 18-24 months of initial recovery. Doctors and researchers will use this data to explore new options in the treatment of anorexia, as well as learn how to evaluate and monitor those released from the facilities.

Anorexia nervosa is a chronic eating disorder, that if left untreated, often leads to death. The disorder affects more women than men. While many believe it strikes adolescents more than any other age group, anorexia has been known to claim lives of any age. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of the known psychiatric conditions, claiming the lives of up to six percent of its victims.

Signs that someone you know may be suffering from anorexia nervosa include:

  • Skipping meals/avoiding meals with others
  • Complaining of room/body temperature
  • Excessive exercise
  • Commenting on body image/fat
  • Unusual hair loss for a young person
  • Light coloured hair indicating starvation
  • Brittle nails
  • Confusion, irritability, depression and anxiety
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Change in personality
  • Wearing layers of clothing
  • Using laxatives or eating high fibre
  • Pale or grey skin
  • Complaining of headaches or dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Self-defeating statements or punishing themselves after eating

Previous studies reveal that those suffering with this disorder are generally bright individuals, but their aim to be "perfect", combined with hereditary factors, may leave them with a higher probability of anorexia and/or other eating disorders.

Anorexia nervosa is capable of significant damage to the brain and heart. As the individual's blood pressure and heart rate drops, chances of irregular heart rhythms or heart failure becomes prominent.

Neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine are decreased in the brain of those with anorexia, which links them with patients suffering from chronic depression. Those with anorexia nervosa also tend to have higher than normal levels of vasopressin and cortisol.

Treatment includes psychotherapy, dietary changes via a qualified nutritionist, and family counselling. If the individual is unwilling to get treatment or refuses to see a specialist, the chances for death or later relapse are greater.

©2007 Anai Rhoads Ford.

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Anai Rhoads is a Human Rights journalist originally from Athens, Greece. Her work has been featured on several web-based newspapers and media outlets, which include ZMagazine,, and Media Monitors. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief (more...)
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