Diagnosing & Treating Anorexia Online
Anorexia nervosa is a very serious, emotional eating disorder that can be life-threatening. People with anorexia have a difficult time maintaining an appropriate body weight for their height, age and stature. According to the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, the following criteria must be met:
- Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory and physical health
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
If one does not meet this criteria from the DSM-5, a serious eating disorder can still be present. When it comes to anorexia, there are two common types:
- Binge/Purge Type – The individual suffering from this type of anorexia will purge when they eat.
- Restrictive – In this form, the individual will drastically limit the amount of food consumed. Typically, an individual will ingest a minimal amount that is well below their body’s caloric needs, which leads to starvation.
Anorexia nervosa is far from a simple disorder – it has many symptoms, effects, and causes and every case is unique. There are many factors that can contribute to the eating disorder, both environmental and biological. To successfully diagnose and treat an individual for anorexia, it is essential to determine the contributing factors.
You and your online therapist or psychiatrist can work together to determine the severity of your anorexia nervosa and what type of treatment is needed, or if a referral to a specialist is required. Your diagnosis will be based on the physical exam, duration, severity of symptoms and your medical history.
Once a diagnosis has been made, your therapist or psychiatrist will go over the risks and benefits of the various treatment plans. Treatment for anorexia is different depending on the severity.
Given the complexity of anorexia, it is recommended that a team of medical professionals work with you for recovery. This professional team would typically involve medical doctors, nutritionists, therapists, and psychiatrists. This team will work together to reach an effective, holistic eating disorder treatment plan. This treatment plan, may include:
- A medical doctor addressing any serious health issues that maybe have resulted from malnutrition, like an unstable heartbeat.
- A nutritionist working with the patient to restore, implement and supervise a tailored meal plan. There is also an education component here about normal eating patterns.
- A therapist and psychiatrist recognizing any underlying issues associated with the disorder. This could be by learning healthier and emotional coping skills.