Anorexia nervosa is one of the best known eating disorders with the most media exposure. However, it should be noted that this disorder is not a set of symptoms that always appear together in the same way.
That is why, if we want to be more specific and describe in more detail the way in which this affection is expressed, we have to talk about types of anorexia nervosa .
But before we focus on this classification, let’s get down to basics: the definition of this disorder.
What is anorexia?
Etymologically, the term “anorexia” means “lack of hunger” . This fact already gives us a clue about the nature of anorexia nervosa; it is an eating disorder one of whose main symptoms is the lack of intake of food and drink beyond water.
Thus, the word anorexia refers to lack of appetite, a symptom present in the typical clinical picture of several disorders and diseases, while anorexia nervosa is a specific eating disorder, not a symptom . Specifically, anorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by an interest in losing weight and body volume taken to a pathological extreme, materialized in the constant refusal to eat in order not to gain weight.
Thus, no matter what type of anorexia nervosa we are talking about, this disorder causes people to become so thin or to eat such a poor and harmful diet that their health is in serious danger .
The symptoms that characterize the different types of anorexia nervosa (regardless of which one is present in each case) are the following:
- Body Mass Index significantly below the average for the person’s age and sex
- bradycardia (drop in heart rate)
- Obsession with counting calories from what is consumed.
- Feeling tired.
- Abnormally dry skin (xerosis)
- In addition, in very serious and advanced cases it can cause
- Amenorrhea (disappearance of menstruation).
Types of Anorexia Nervosa
Now that we’ve seen the basic characteristics of the disorder, let’s move on to the types of anorexia nervosa and their characteristics.
There are basically two types of anorexia: purgative anorexia and restrictive anorexia.
1. Purgative Anorexia
Anorexia nervosa of the purgative type is characterized by stages of purging , which usually consists of vomiting and, in some cases, the use of diuretics or laxatives.
Before the purging phase, there is a phase of binge eating that is experienced as an uncontrollable urge that leads to eating quickly and chewing little.
The typical profile of purging anorexia patients is female adolescents with a tendency to impulsivity and constant self-evaluation thoughts based on their physical appearance.
The difference between purgative anorexia and bulimia, which is a very similar eating disorder, is that the former is underweight and more likely to become malnourished.
2. Restrictive anorexia
No purging occurs in this type of anorexia. Instead, there is constant resistance to the act of eating . The latter is a possibility that is often seen as repugnant, since it is associated with the process of getting fat.
Thus, this type of anorexia is more typical of methodical and perfectionist people, rigid with the rules and capable of extreme self-control , and do not present the impulsive profile of patients with purgative anorexia. However, both the sex and the typical age range are the same as in the other type of anorexia nervosa.
Both types of anorexia nervosa are estimated to have a multi-causal origin, not entirely dependent on either genetics or environmental influence. The factors that most influence its occurrence are these:
1. Family factors
The presence of family members with mental or neurological disorders living with the person increases the chances of the person developing anorexia nervosa. This occurs especially during youth, when one is more dependent on the family and more susceptible to imitating behavior patterns.Similarly, a family environment in which there is great pressure toward perfectionism also contributes to its appearance.
2. Cultural factors
These are factors related to the type of cultural influences to which the person is exposed. Both the media and the Internet can show role models that are characterized by extreme thinness, something that is very evident in some social network accounts.
In addition, through social networks it is common that images of extremely thin young people are also used as references, and there are even accounts on social networks dedicated to using these photographs to “motivate” others to follow the same steps and resist eating.
3. Individual factors
Heritability plays a role in the risk of developing some of the types of anorexia, as do other aspects that are strictly not genetic, such as the presence of other diagnosed disorders . The clinical pictures most related to anorexia are major depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.