Anorexia Nervosa: When should one seek medical advice?

By  , Expert Content
Feb 23, 2012

Anorexia nervosa is a common eating disorder, which can be life-threatening.

A person diagnosed with anorexia (or someone you care about) should call the doctor immediately if he or she:

  • Is unable to pass urine.
  • Has a problem with heart beat such as rapid or pounding heartbeat, skipping heartbeat or a slower-than-normal heart rate.
  • Has lost consciousness (fainted).
  • Has abdominal symptoms such as severe pain in abdomen (stomach), blood in vomiting, black and sticky (tarry) stools (blood in vomiting and black stools suggest there is bleeding in the digestive tract).
  • Have severe pain anywhere in the body such as in the limbs, joints or torso.

Consult your doctor if you (or someone you care about):

  • Have signs and symptoms suggestive of anorexia such as rapid weight loss, eating very little or are being overly concerned about weight and appearance.
  • Have lost a lot of weight and fail to maintain weight.
  • Have excessive fear of gaining weight or becoming fat (even when you are underweight).
  • Have obsession with the body weight or shape or checking weight repeatedly (even when you are underweight).
  • Have missed three or more menstrual periods in a row.
  • Have unhealthy eating habits such as unusual behaviour at meal times (such as cutting food into small pieces or moving them around the plate rather than eating), avoiding eating and skipping meals, denial of hunger etc.
  • Have a distorted body image such as the feeling that you must diet to reduce fat, when you are actually too thin to lose any weight.
  • Diet, exercise excessively or use other methods (such as enemas and laxatives or diet pills) to lose weight.
  • Are preoccupied with exercising such as exercising even when the weather is bad, you are ill or have a very busy schedule.

Who to consult

Health professionals, who can be consulted if you have eating disorder include:

  • General practitioner.
  • Family physician.
  • Pediatrician.
  • Nurse practitioner.
  • Assistants of the physician.
  • Registered dietician.
  • Psychologist or a Psychiatrist.

If you have severe malnutrition, serious physical health complications such as heart disorders or life-threatening mental health problems, you may be hospitalised for treatment.



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