Psychopathology of Anorexia Nervosa

Abstract

Anorexia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that could result into mortality when treatment is ineffective or absent. It manifests in an individual’s failure to attain and maintain the weight considered minimal for such an individual (based on ones height), with the individual having an excessive fear of gaining weight. Although described in a variety of literature, its diagnosis is complicated by aspects such as patients’ denial of symptoms . This paper’s purpose is to highlight the psychopathology of AN by discussing its diagnostic criteria, epidemiology, etiology, comorbid factors, differential diagnosis, course and prognosis, and treatment. Although other conditions (e.g. depression) share some symptoms with AN, classical features such as obsessive fear of gaining weight and ritualistic concern with caloric content of ingested food may help distinguish AN from such conditions. Effective treatment of AN embodies a comprehensive approach comprising cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, hospitalization and, in some cases, medication.

Keywords. Anorexia nervosa, Eating disorders, Psychopathology.

Introduction

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a severe eating disorder in which the patients refuse “to maintain a minimally normal weight, intensely fear gaining weight, and significantly misinterpret their body and its shape” (Sadock, Kaplan & Sadok, 2007, p. 727). Although described in various literature, diagnosis of AN is challenging due to factors such as the occurrence of other disorders with similar manifestations and patient’s denial of symptoms. Despite such challenges in diagnosis, AN is a severe eating disorder whose outcomes include mortality that results from complications following prolonged starvation. This paper aims to highlight the psychopathology of AN by discussing its diagnostic criteria, epidemiology, etiology, comorbid factors, differential diagnosis, course and prognosis, and treatment. Go to part 2 here.

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