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Eating disorders are a range of behavioural conditions that affect a person’s eating patterns. Distressful emotions and thoughts accompany them. It is a common misconception that such disorders are a choice or extreme form of dieting to lose weight. In reality, they are very serious and affect a person’s mental and physical health. Additionally, people who develop eating disorders may also experience an inability to focus on work and maintaining relationships. Often, they are also excluded from social gatherings and may be isolated due to their habits, health issues, and changes in appearance. There are multiple eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. According to statistics, such behavioural conditions are mostly seen but not limited to women. People usually develop eating disorders around the period of adolescence or during their pre-teen years. If not treated, these disorders can continue to worsen and may result in death.

People affected by the mentioned behavioural conditions have fluctuations in weight. A person with anorexia or bulimia nervosa may lose a drastic amount of weight in a short time. Even after a significant weight loss, many find it unable to stop. As a result, they have a very low body mass index (BMI) and body weight. However, this does not always happen. Another misconception regarding eating disorders is that an affected person always has exceptionally low weight, which is not true. People with atypical anorexia are usually not underweight. What is atypical anorexia? It is a condition similar to anorexia nervosa but is also different in many ways. This article provides information on atypical anorexia, its symptoms, and its treatment. Continue reading if you have signs similar to anorexia nervosa but have a normal BMI.

Atypical anorexia symptoms can be tricky to spot, especially since they resemble signs of anorexia nervosa. People often associate their symptoms with other health issues due to the popular image of eating disorders. However, recognizing signs of atypical anorexia is important as they can become severe over time.

Physical Symptoms

People with atypical anorexia restrict themselves and their diets just as much as those with bulimia nervosa or other eating disorders. Therefore, they are likely to experience the following physical signs:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Significant weight loss in a short period while still having a normal or high BMI
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low levels of energy
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dry and yellow skin
  • Hair fall
  • Bloating

Behavioural Symptoms

Atypical anorexia differs from anorexia nervosa because based on body weight and BMI. The emotional and behavioural symptoms are typically the same and include:

  • Inability to concentrate and stay focused
  • Distorted body image
  • Placing self-worth in physical appearance
  • Consistently thinking about body shape, weight, and size
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Low self-esteem
  • Restricting diet and refusing to eat
  • Not eating in front of other people
  • Hyper monitoring calories, food intake, and nutritional content of food
  • Irritability, agitation, and mood swings

Many people with atypical anorexia are unaware of having a behavioural issue. Most will believe that since they are not underweight, they are not sick. Consequently, they will refuse to get help for their condition.

Long-Term Effects of Atypical Anorexia

Many undermine the intensity and dangers of atypical anorexia. Even if affected people appear normal, they can still develop life-long medical issues if they do not get treatment. Some of the psychological and physical problems that accompany atypical anorexia are:

  • Muscle loss
  • Lowered bone density
  • Extreme nutritional deficiencies
  • Damaged vital organs
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Suicide ideation and self-injury
  • Drug abuse
  • Death

People with atypical anorexia are often deemed obese or overweight before developing an eating disorder. Eventually, they lose weight, and their BMI comes under the normal range, but their symptoms worsen. In such cases, the affected person can become underweight and get a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. With this development, the associated health risks also increase.

Getting treatment early for eating disorders is important to increase the chances of recovery. Since people with illnesses like atypical anorexia also have other mental issues, going to a specialist is mandatory. A therapist or counsellor can assist a person recover from an eating disorder with different treatments, including:

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapies are highly effective in controlling eating disorders in people. Based on a person’s age, sex, and physical/mental health, a specialist may recommend a specific form of therapy for higher chances of success. For instance, family-based treatments are more suitable for adolescents and children with atypical anorexia or other behavioural disorders. In this type, parents or caregivers take the responsibility of monitoring the affected person’s diet. Adults appear to respond better to cognitive behavioural therapy. CBT is another form of psychotherapy in which a person can learn to identify patterns in their behaviours and actions. Under the guidance of a specialist, it is possible to eliminate negative thoughts or triggers over time and recover from atypical anorexia.

Medications

Certain medicines such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics may help with eating disorders and co-occurring disorders like depression. However, specialists prescribe medications in specific cases only. Please do not use any medicines without a prescription as they are harmful and may have the opposite effect. Secondly, self-medication in cases of eating disorders leads to addiction and dependency.

Support Groups

Group therapy or support groups bring together people suffering from similar illnesses. In behavioural disorder treatments, community bonding helps keep people persistent in their treatment. Due to depression and anxiety, a person may be discouraged from getting therapy for their issue and consistently miss his sessions or forget to take medicine. Having a group and learning about other people’s experiences tends to be motivating. Secondly, group therapies also aid people who struggle to follow their specialist’s instructions.

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