San Diego Treatment for Atypical Anorexia Nervosa
You may realize that your relationship with food is causing you distress, but your behaviors do not seem to qualify you for any of the better-known eating disorders that you are familiar with. You may even be avoiding help or dismissing warning signs because you don’t feel that your symptoms are critical enough. If your food intake, body image, exercise habits, or food-related emotions are causing you concern, then your internal protection system may be trying to give you an alert. Left unchecked, disordered eating features almost always intensify, and become supported by self-criticism, depression, anxiety and complex denial systems. Atypical eating disorders, such as atypical anorexia, may be affecting all or parts of your life, but normally, the hallmark is that your behaviors or obsessive thoughts are causing you concern or have raised concern in those around you. If you think you may have an atypical eating disorder, we are here to provide the support, education, and compassion necessary to help you develop a loving relationship with yourself and with food.
There are many types of eating disorders. Diagnoses vary based on the symptoms and behaviors that each person presents. An eating disorder is considered atypical when some, but not all, of the diagnostic criteria for a disorder is present. Atypical eating disorders, such as atypical anorexia nervosa, are also known as eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and they fall under the category of other specified feeding or eating disorders.
Atypical Anorexia: What is it?
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an intense fear of weight gain with significant weight loss resulting from the restriction of food/fuel or calories. Someone with atypical anorexia may present with the extreme fear of weight gain and some of the restrictive behaviors of anorexia, but they do not necessarily meet the low weight criteria for that diagnosis. They might count and cut calories, cut out certain food groups, or avoid social events that center around a meal.
Atypical Anorexia: Signs and Symptoms
As the symptoms of atypical anorexia may be less visual or obvious as anorexia nervosa, there is a danger that atypical anorexia can go without diagnosis or treatment. A person who is struggling with disordered eating thoughts and symptoms may think that they aren’t in danger because they are at a normal or above-normal body weight. They may be particularly hesitant to seek help as there is some stigma around anorexics being underweight. She may feel like she isn’t “anorexic enough” to need help, or she might worry she would not be taken seriously by health care providers or by her friends or loved ones.
Symptoms may include extreme fear of weight gain, abnormal eating behaviors, such as calorie counting, fad diets, cutting out certain foods or food groups, avoiding social events involving food, isolating, depression, anxiety, and self-harm. Like anorexia nervosa, atypical anorexia can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, dry hair, skin, and nails. Disordered eating can result in dangerous medical complications such as heart disease, stroke, seizure, or death.
Treatment for Atypical Anorexia
Treatment should include care for disordered eating as well as any co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and trauma. Left untreated, co-occurring disorders will perpetuate relapse of disordered eating patterns, undermining psychological and physical recovery, and adding additional suffering and harm.
Treatment begins with an assessment by a mental health professional who specializes in eating disorders. Treatment recommendations might include inpatient, residential, or outpatient care, or some combination. Comprehensive treatment includes collaboration by a variety of medical and mental health professionals including a clinical psychologist, a nutritionist or dietician, a psychiatrist, a physician, or others. Sometimes, medications are used to treat the medical and psychological symptoms of anorexia, however, the core of eating disorder treatment is through psychotherapies such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), family therapy, group psychotherapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with anorexia nervosa, call and speak to our supportive, knowledgeable staff. We can provide you with guidance to help your loved one get the support they need.
Recovery is possible. Treatment is available. We are here to help.