Atypical anorexia

Atypical anorexia :5 Key differences between an atypical anorexia and the anorexia nervosa

When people usually hear the term ‘eating disorder’, the first thing that comes to their mind is Anorexia Nervosa since it is a more widely known phenomenon. Similarly, there is another widely believed misconception that people that tend to have an eating disorder are extremely weak and have a thin body physique. But that’s not the case for Atypical Anorexia patients.

So what is Atypical Anorexia?

Not all eating disorders come with an externality of poor body physique; some disorders like the atypical anorexia do not possess such symptoms at all! But that’s what makes it difficult to diagnose as well that’s why a keenly observant eye is needed to effectively diagnose someone who has this condition and does not present the general symptoms of eating disorders.

Atypical anorexia can take over someone’s daily life, mentally and physically. Someone with this eating disorder may think about food and their body constantly. This can include calculating calories, thinking of ways to avoid situations with food, or obsessing over body weight.

This can be disrupting to other aspects of one’s life such as social exposure. Work productivity in offices or colleges and weakling relationships with family and friends. These people can also experience health problems similar to anorexia nervosa like malnutrition, or mental health conditions like prolonged depression or anxiety.

This is a complex mental health disorder that creates a phobia regarding gaining weight. People that possess this disorder are often observed with extreme reluctance in having high intakes of food and generally have low self-esteem influenced by body weight.

5 Differences between Atypical anorexia and Anorexia nervosa

While both of the eating disorders possess similar symptoms, being able to distinguish between the two is still very crucial for the proper diagnosis of atypical anorexia since it’s less apparent in terms of obvious symptoms. We have listed down the few prominent distinguishing factors between the two disorders

No extremely low body weight

Atypical anorexia meets all the diagnostic criteria of anorexia nervosa, except for having an extremely low body weight. This is the key difference between the two disorders as these individuals might not experience dramatic weight loss that is usually associated with anorexia nervosa.

Even though people with atypical anorexia possess similar symptoms like a distorted body image and extreme fear of gaining weight, the main difference still remains quite prominent.

Being overweight from your BMI

Since people with this eating disorder maintain a medically acceptable BMI, in some cases these people can even go above their body weight. This is something that people with a diagnosed anorexia nervosa might never encounter. While their body weight might not become too low, the effect of malnutrition will still be affecting the organs, skin, and the brain

Weight loss over a longer period of time

It is important to note here that if someone has anorexia nervosa, their diagnosis is a simple procedure as the sudden loss of body weight makes it apparent. Here the key emphasis should be on the word ‘sudden’ since this is what draws the boundary between an n atypical anorexia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

As stated above in the article, these people often go undiagnosed since they might possess other symptoms but there is no apparent sign of weight loss. But if the inspection is done over a longer period of time, this condition can also proceed to the same condition if it prolongs over a long period.

Misdiagnosis in the case of the atypical anorexia

If you have the condition of atypical anorexia, you will probably encounter people saying “oh! You aren’t really sick” or “you don’t actually have an eating disorder”. Even doctors and experts might overlook the behavioral symptoms in such a case or might even encourage the patient to have a weight loss.

This attitude generally ignores the suffering of the people with the disorder as they are often told that their health consequences are not that extreme so no need to take proper medication for the case. What’s worse is that often they are even told to opt for a weight loss or hear positive reinforcements about weight loss from their doctors.

Such diagnoses often overlook the HAES principle that clearly states that if someone is eating enough nutrition but is overweight, that person is still healthier than someone restricting their diet to achieve a normal BMI. The lack of nutrition in the case of atypical anorexia creates the same havoc on the individual’s body.

Inaccessibility to proper treatment

Since people associate anorexia nervosa so intensely with the image of a person with a poor body physique, a normal size person with atypical anorexia might face a lack of acceptance from the general society and the people with other eating disorders.

Such myths leave these individuals underserved of the proper treatment that they deserve. Similarly, since they are so often told they don’t possess the right criteria to meet the treatment for an eating disorder, these; people start hiding their disordered behaviors that further weaken their condition and increase the severity.

Because the symptoms of atypical anorexia are not as readily apparent as the ones from anorexia nervosa, it can often go misdiagnosed. But this does not limit the seriousness of the condition as atypical anorexia is just as severe and risky as its fellow neighbor.

Final Thoughts

Atypical anorexia is an extremely dangerous condition as studies have found this disorder has the highest death rate of any other mental health disorder. Not only does the inadequacy of food result in a prominent risk factor but the lack of fuel to the brain limits one’s capability to think effectively which leads to a distorted thinking pattern. Without proper treatment, this disorder can turn fatal. Therefore, patients should consult medical specialists as soon as possible.

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