Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common and most deadly eating disorders. Anorexia is characterized by a distorted body image, inadequate food intake, and significantly low body weight. Most people with anorexia have an intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight. Few realize how sick they are.

Anorexia nervosa disorder is more common in girls than in boys and usually develops between 14 and 17 years of age. In the United States, anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, and prevalence rates appear to be increasing. Currently, an estimated 1 out of 100 teens is affected and up to 13 percent have some symptoms but do not meet full criteria for diagnosis.

Anorexia nervosa usually takes one of two forms: the restricting subtype or the binge eating/purging subtype. The restricting subtype is characterized by maintaining a low weight by restricting caloric intake through dieting, fasting and/or excessive exercise. The binge-eating/purging subtype is characterized by having used self-induced methods within the past three months to get rid of calories, such as self-induced vomiting or habitual use of laxatives, enemas and/or diuretics.

Signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa include the following:

  • Body weight < 15 percent of expected or body mass index ≤ 17kg/m2
  • Loss of menstruation (amenorrhea)
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Low body temperature
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low resting heart rate
  • The presence of fine thin hair (lanugo)
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Low bone mineral density (brittle bones)
  • Dental caries
  • Knuckle excoriations
  • Parotid gland swelling for those who participate in the binging/purging subtype

About 70 percent of people with anorexia also have co-occurring disorders, which typically include depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and social phobias. Patients with anorexia are also four times more likely to develop drug or alcohol use disorders. One in 5 anorexia nervosa deaths is by suicide.

Sovereign Health’s Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

The adolescent Eating Disorder Program at Sovereign Health treats girls aged 12 to 17 years with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or binge-eating disorder. We treat co-occurring emotional, behavioral and substance use disorders simultaneously. We offer residential anorexia treatment, partial hospitalization, and outpatient levels of care followed by recovery management for the first year or so after treatment is completed.

Our 14-bed facility in beautiful Rancho San Diego was designed specifically for teen girls with eating disorders and is accredited and certified by The Joint Commission. The primary goals are to medically stabilize patients, restore a healthy weight and treat underlying disorders. Our age-appropriate anorexia treatment program also restores positive body image, establishes healthy lifestyle habits, and teaches patients how to recover and maintain physical and mental health. Family services allow parents, family and friends to support their loved ones during the treatment process. Our programs such as the family weekend offer educational and therapeutic opportunities as well.

Our multidisciplinary teams include physicians, nurses, therapists, dietitians and other professionals who specialize in treating anorexia. Patients are supervised around-the-clock. Individual, group and family psychotherapy is a cornerstone of treatment of anorexia nervosa. Other modalities include group process, nutrition education classes, life skills workshops, lifestyle management and peer-to-peer support. Neurofeedback is offered as an adjunct therapy. Experiential therapy consists of equine, music, art, and other expressive arts and activities.

Our healing community encourages girls to develop positive perceptions about their body image and resolve negative thought patterns and behaviors. Sovereign Health supports young women with anorexia nervosa disorder to overcome their condition and re-establish mutually supportive relationships with their loved ones. We strive to restore hope and the vision of a bright and healthy future for each individual patient and her family.

About Sovereign Health of Rancho San Deigo

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego provides culturally and developmentally sensitive behavioral health treatment for adolescents with eating disorders, mental disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Our specialized professional staff work together to meet the goals and needs of our young patients and their families. Women over the age of 18 needing treatment for eating disorders can participate in our adult Eating Disorder Program in San Clemente, California. To learn more about our Eating Disorder Program or any of our other specialized services, please call our 24/7 helpline.

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