Psychologist Questions Anorexia Nervosa

How serious can anorexia be?

My sister has been diagnosed with anorexia. I haven't been around, so when she was diagnosed I was really surprised. How serious can anorexia get? What should we do to help her? My parents are considering sending her to a rehab.

10 Answers

Anorexia can be very serious and can at times even cause death. It’s very important that your sister gets into a center where there is a team that can help her from feeding, to diet, exercise, and mental health.

Irene Yaymadjian, PsyD
Dear Sir/Madam:

Sorry to hear that your sister has been diagnosed with Anorexia. Anorexia Nervosa is one of the feeding and eating disorders listed in DSM - 5. One of the criteria for this diagnosis is significantly low body weight. A person suffering from it may have an erroneous body image of being fat and are afraid of gaining weight. Sometimes people suffering from it avoid eating, at other times they use laxatives, vomiting, enemas or diuretics to control and reduce weight even when their body's weight is significantly lower for their body size and height.
Apparently, your sister has been seen by a therapist and or a psychiatrist who have recommended that she goes through rehab. She needs to explore where the erroneous body image has come from and let it go and allow self to be healthy. You can ask guidance from her mental health provider regarding how and in what areas you can be supportive. Hope they have family therapy sessions that you can participate in and let her know you are there for her and you love her just the way she is.

Take care,

Dr. Sonpal
The most serious risk associated with anorexia is death. Medical complications develop because malnutrition or starvation affect most major organ systems. Consequently, individuals suffering from anorexia often need medical attention immediately and should get evaluated by their doctor. A mental health provider who specializes in treating eating disorders can successfully help individuals with anorexia in the earlier stages or when they have a milder condition. But individuals with anorexia that have moderate to severe disorders generally need inpatient treatment at a facility for eating disorders before they can start outpatient treatment to maintain and continue progress. You can help your sister by reminding her that you love her and that you support her getting help to learn how to reach and maintain a weight that she finds comfortable but that also fosters good physical and mental health.
Your parents might be doing the needed intervention. Depending on your sister’s age...

Dr. Claire PSY. D.
Left untreated, the condition can result in some very negative outcomes, such as the body beginning to shut down. Often, an individual with this condition suffers from low self-esteem and has no control over circumstances in their life and focuses on body issues as a means of validating who they are. It needs treatment before she totally de-compensates.
It is the only psychiatric disorder that can kill a patient. That is, the disorder progresses in a manner that will eventually result in death if not adequately addressed.
A therapist or rehab is good. Study up on it and see if you can help. If she is adolescent, not to worry so much.
Anorexia can be fatal. Often it is the result of a secret shame, sometimes sexual abuse, other times physical or emotional abuse. It could be the result of a family secret or family ethic that it is not OK to express feelings or thoughts. Find what the source of her pain and begin to address it.
Anorexia can be fatal! She should see a specialist in this condition, and may need to be hospitalized.
Anorexia can be very serious especially to one's physical well being. Discuss the extent of the issue with the professional who made the diagnosis. Decide whether outpatient or inpatient treatment is needed - there are OP and IP services that specialize in eating disorders. The important point is get it address.