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Anorexia nervosa treatment, diagnosis & prescriptions

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Can I talk to a doctor on Maple about anorexia nervosa?

Yes, a doctor on Maple would be happy to talk to you about anorexia nervosa.

If the doctor believes you could be experiencing this condition, they will likely suggest additional testing be performed to confirm an anorexia nervosa diagnosis.

After you’ve received an anorexia nervosa diagnosis, a doctor on Maple will be able to suggest anorexia nervosa treatment options.

Can I get a prescription on Maple?

Yes, our physicians can prescribe anorexia nervosa medications online during your consultation. Once you accept a prescription, you’ll have the option to pick it up from any pharmacy or to have it delivered to your door at no additional cost.

You can visit our How it works page to learn more.

What is anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa, also known simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder that can be identified by extreme weight loss, as well as self-starvation.

Technically, an anorexia nervosa diagnosis can be given to a person if they are at least 15% below their normal, healthy body weight.

This eating disorder can lead to dangerous, potentially life-threatening health conditions if it isn’t addressed and treated.

What are the symptoms of anorexia nervosa?

The symptoms and signs of anorexia nervosa are usually closely related to starvation. This means the physical symptoms can appear as:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Inability to tolerate cold temperatures
  • Thin appearance
  • Dry or yellowish skin
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Absence of the menstrual period
  • Thinning hair that easily breaks or falls out
  • Soft, downy hair that grows across the body
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Bluish discoloration of the fingers or toes
  • Swelling of the arms or legs
  • Eroded teeth
  • Calluses on knuckles (caused by induced vomiting)

There may also be emotional or behavioral anorexia nervosa symptoms, such as:

  • Excessively exercising
  • Binging and purging (eating large amounts of food and then vomiting)
  • Abusing or misusing laxative, enemas, diet aids, or herbal weight loss products
  • Severely restricting the amount of food being eaten
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Long-term fasting
  • Frequently skipping meals
  • Denial of hunger
  • Making excuses not to eat
  • Adopting eating rituals, such as spitting out food after chewing
  • Eating only a small amount of “safe” foods
  • Obsession with food and counting calories
  • Suddenly wearing multiple layers of clothing
  • Irritability
  • Not wanting to eat while others are watching
  • Lying about how much they have eaten
  • Social withdrawal
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Repeatedly weighing or measuring their bodies
  • Frequent mirror checks, focusing on perceived flaws
  • Lack of emotion
  • Distorted perception of body weight and shape

While those experiencing bulimia also binge and purge, the signs of anorexia nervosa point to patients being under their normal weight. Bulimia patients on the other hand, tend to have normal or above normal weights.

What causes anorexia nervosa?

While it’s unclear at this time, some scientists believe there may be some genetic causes for anorexia nervosa that make some people more likely to experience this condition.

Psychologically, some people believe that obsessive-compulsive disorder and perfectionism could be the causes of anorexia nervosa. This may also apply to people with high levels of anxiety, depression, those with a poor self-image or people who are going through a stressful transition in their lives, such as a new job or moving to a new place.

Of course, North American culture’s obsession with being thin also places unfair pressure on many people, as beauty and being thin are often associated with self-worth and success.

This is especially true for women, though in recent years anorexia has started becoming more prevalent in men.

How is anorexia nervosa diagnosed?

While some symptoms of anorexia nervosa can be seen during a physical examination, the doctor may suggest additional testing to be performed, to ensure there isn’t another underlying condition that could be responsible for your weight loss.

The doctor may suggest lab tests, like a complete blood count (CBC) or to check for electrolytes.
They may check your liver, thyroid, and kidney function using bloodwork and a urinalysis to provide a more accurate anorexia nervosa diagnosis.

Your doctor could also suggest visiting a mental health professional, who will discuss your thoughts, feelings, and regular eating habits with you. In some cases, you could be asked to fill out a psychological self-assessment questionnaire.

Sometimes, the doctor may suggest other testing like X-rays or electrocardiograms to check your bone density, check for broken or fractured bones, pneumonia, or heart irregularities. This will help the doctor rule out other possible underlying conditions that are causing your anorexia nervosa symptoms.

How is anorexia nervosa treated?

Unfortunately, anorexia is an eating disorder, so no anorexia nervosa prescriptions can be provided to directly improve symptoms.

However, if the doctor believes that your condition is being caused by depression or anxiety, they may suggest antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs as your anorexia nervosa medication to help treat these underlying causes.

The level of care suggested for treatment will be dependent on the severity of weight loss and malnutrition. This can sometimes require hospital admission.

Most likely, the doctor will suggest a team approach to anorexia nervosa treatment, including:

  • A dietician to provide nutritional rehabilitation
  • Help from loved ones
  • A regular check-up schedule with your doctor to monitor for complications of anorexia, as well as refeeding syndrome
  • Psychotherapy, both individual and family-based

Together, using these resources, it’s possible to get this condition under control. However, this could take years of work, learning to work through fears of weight gain and improving one’s self-image.

When to see a doctor for anorexia nervosa?

If you’re beginning to experience some of the signs of anorexia nervosa, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor right away. Anorexia can have very serious, even life-threatening consequences if left untreated.

Remember, you’re not a failure for asking for help. A doctor on Maple will gladly help you talk through your situation and direct you towards the next course of action that’s best for both your mental and physical health.

Many people who experience anorexia nervosa don’t want to ask for help, at least not at first. If a loved one is showing symptoms of anorexia nervosa, talk to them about it in a calm, supportive way. Try not to judge their actions. Encourage them to see a doctor and do everything you can to help them follow through with treatments.

What is Maple?

With Maple, you can start talking to a doctor about your symptoms in a matter of minutes. We’re a healthcare platform for fast, convenient 24/7 access to Canadian doctors.

Simply log in, tap a button to request a consultation, and we’ll immediately connect you to a doctor via live chat or video. You can visit our How it works page to learn more.

Our doctors can assess symptoms and provide treatment, including prescriptions as necessary.

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