Anorexia in Elderly: A Silent but Deadly Disease

Did you know that anorexia is not just a disease that affects young people? In fact, it can also affect elderly adults. Anorexia in the elderly is often referred to as “the silent killer.” This is because many people do not realize that this disease can occur in older adults, and because it often goes undetected. Elderly adults who suffer from anorexia are at risk for serious health complications, including death. In this blog post, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of anorexia in the elderly, as well as the risks associated with this disease.

Defining Anorexia In Elderly

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight, and they may see themselves as overweight, even when they are not. They may also have a distorted view of their body size and shape. It is also not uncommon for people with anorexia nervosa to have other mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression.

When particularly addressing anorexia in the elderly, it is often overlooked as many health professionals believe that it is a disease that only affects younger people. However, this is not the case. In fact, research suggests that anorexia nervosa occurs in 0.52% of women over the age of 50 years old. This number may seem small, but it’s important to remember that this figure does not include those who suffer from subclinical anorexia nervosa (SCAN). SCAN is defined as individuals who do not meet the full criteria for anorexia nervosa but still experience disordered eating behaviors and thoughts. When taking SCAN into account, the percentage of elderly women affected by anorexia nervosa jumps to 11%. This means that nearly one in ten elderly women are affected by anorexia nervosa, whether it be the full-blown disorder or SCAN.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms

There are several signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa in older adults. These include:

  • Weight loss: One of the most common signs of anorexia nervosa is weight loss. This may be intentional or unintentional. Older adults who are losing weight without trying may have an underlying health condition, such as cancer or thyroid problems. However, older adults who are intentionally losing weight may be doing so through dieting, fasting, or purging.
  • Changes in eating habits: Another common sign of anorexia nervosa is changes in eating habits. Older adults who are suffering from anorexia nervosa may begin to avoid meals, eat smaller portions, or only eat certain foods.
  • Muscle weakness: Muscle weakness is another sign of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body breaks down muscle tissue in order to use it for energy.
  • Preoccupation with food: Anorexia nervosa can often lead to a preoccupation with food. This may involve thinking about food all the time, planning meals, or cooking for others.
  • Changes in mood: Older adults with anorexia nervosa may also experience changes in mood. They may be more irritable, anxious, or depressed. In addition, they may also have difficulty concentrating and sleeping.
  • Difficulty concentrating: People with anorexia nervosa may also have difficulty concentrating. This is because the lack of nutrients can affect brain function.
  • Decreased appetite: Many older adults with anorexia nervosa will have a decreased appetite. This may be due to their fear of gaining weight or their distorted view of their body size and shape.
  • Constipation: Constipation is another common symptom of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough fiber, and it may also be due to dehydration.
  • Weakness: Weakness is another symptom of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, and it may also be due to dehydration.

If you or someone you know is displaying any of these signs or symptoms, it’s important to seek professional help. Anorexia nervosa is a serious disorder that can lead to death if left untreated.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that may contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa in older adults. These include:

  • A history of dieting: Older adults who have a history of yo-yo dieting or crash dieting are at a higher risk for developing anorexia nervosa. This is because they may already have a distorted view of their body size and shape. In addition, they may also be more likely to develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • A history of mental illness: Older adults who have a history of mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, are also at a higher risk for developing anorexia nervosa. This is because they may be more likely to experience negative thoughts and feelings about themselves.
  • Certain medications: There are certain medications that can increase the risk of developing anorexia nervosa. These include antidepressants, antipsychotics, and seizure medications.
  • Retirement: Retirement can be a stressful time for many older adults. They may feel like they no longer have a purpose in life, which can lead to feelings of sadness and loneliness. In addition, retirement can also lead to financial stress.
  • Self-esteem issues: Many older adults may have self esteem issues. This can be due to a number of factors, such as wrinkles, gray hair, and weight gain. These issues can lead to an unhealthy body image, which can in turn lead to anorexia nervosa.
  • Chronic illness: Having a chronic illness can also increase the risk of developing anorexia nervosa. This is because chronic illnesses can often lead to weight loss, and they can also be accompanied by fatigue and pain. Some examples include cancer, HIV-AIDS, heart disease, and diabetes.

If you or someone you know is at risk for developing anorexia nervosa, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Anorexia nervosa is a serious disorder that can lead to death if left untreated. One should seek immediate medical assistance before the consequences get severe.

Consequences

Anorexia nervosa can have a number of serious consequences, both short-term and long-term. These include:

Short-term consequences

Short-term consequences

Short-term consequences of anorexia nervosa can include:

 

Electrolyte imbalance

This can occur when the body is not getting enough fluids. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to heart arrhythmias and even cardiac arrest. It can also cause kidney damage.

Dehydration

Dehydration is one of the most common consequences of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often restrict their fluid intake. In addition, they may also lose fluids through vomiting and diarrhea.

Hair loss

Hair loss is another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have a deficiency in protein and other nutrients. It also doesn’t help that people with anorexia nervosa often lose a lot of hair due to self-induced vomiting.

Brittle nails

Brittle nails are another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have a deficiency in iron, zinc, and other minerals. This can also result as a side effect of hair loss.

Irregular periods

Irregular periods are another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have a deficiency in nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. In addition, they may also have an imbalance of hormones.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition is another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often restrict their food intake. As a result, they may not get enough calories or nutrients. This can lead to a number of health problems, such as weakness, fatigue, and hair loss.

Skin problems

Skin problems are also common in people with anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, which it needs for healthy skin. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have a deficiency in essential fatty acids. In addition, they may also lose a lot of fluids through vomiting and diarrhea.

Anemia

Anemia is another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have low levels of iron in their blood. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and pale skin.

Long-term consequences

Long-term consequences

Long term consequences are more serious and can even be deadly. These include:

Liver damage

Deterioration of the liver is another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have a deficiency in nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. In addition, they may also have an imbalance of hormones.

Bone loss

Anorexia nervosa can also cause bone loss, which is also known as Osteoporosis . This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, which it needs for healthy bones. Bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, which is a condition that makes bones fragile and more likely to break.

Kidney failure

Kidney failure is a serious complication that can be caused by anorexia nervosa. This is because people with anorexia nervosa often have low levels of potassium in their blood. Potassium is a mineral that helps regulate fluid levels in the body. When potassium levels are low, it can cause kidney failure.

Irregular heartbeat

An irregular heartbeat is another common consequence of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, which it needs for a healthy heart. An irregular heartbeat can lead to dizziness, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

Respiratory problems

Respiratory problems are also common in people with anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough oxygen. As a result, people with anorexia nervosa may experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Gastrointestinal problems

Gastrointestinal problems are another common complication of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, which it needs for a healthy digestive system. Gastrointestinal problems can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Neurological problems

Neurological problems are another possible complication of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, which it needs for a healthy nervous system. Neurological problems can include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and depression.

Cognitive problems

Cognitive problems are another possible complication of anorexia nervosa. This is because the body is not getting enough nutrients, which it needs for a healthy brain. Cognitive problems can include difficulty thinking, impaired judgment, and psychosis.

Infertility

Anorexia nervosa can also cause infertility. This is because the disorder can damage the reproductive organs. In addition, people with anorexia nervosa often have a low body weight, which can interfere with ovulation.

Death

Anorexia nervosa can also lead to death. This is usually the result of complications from malnutrition or organ damage. In some cases, people with anorexia nervosa may also commit suicide.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious disorder that can have a number of consequences, both short-term and long-term. If you or someone you know is suffering from anorexia nervosa, it’s important to seek immediate medical help before the consequences get worse. Early intervention is key to recovery from anorexia nervosa.

Treatment

Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for older adults with anorexia nervosa. These may require intervention from a psychologist, a nutritionist, or both.

Psychological Treatment

Psychological Treatment

One of the most effective treatments for anorexia nervosa is psychological treatment. This works by understanding the underlying causes of the disorder and addressing them. Psychological treatment can be in the form of therapy or medication.

  • Therapy: Therapy is a type of psychological treatment that involves talking to a therapist about the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are associated with anorexia nervosa. The goal of therapy is to help the person with anorexia nervosa understand and change these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Some of the most common types of therapies include:

-Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of therapy helps the person with anorexia nervosa identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that are associated with the disorder.

-Interpersonal therapy: This type of therapy helps the person with anorexia nervosa understand and change the way they interact with other people.

-Family therapy: This type of therapy helps the person with anorexia nervosa understand and change the way their family interacts with them.

  • Medication: Medication is another type of psychological treatment that can be used to treat anorexia nervosa. Medication can address underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, that may be contributing to the disorder. Some of the most common medications used to treat anorexia nervosa include:

-Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These medications are used to treat depression. They can also be used to treat anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), both of which are common in people with anorexia nervosa.

-Antipsychotics: These medications are used to treat psychosis. They may also be used to treat anxiety and agitation, both of which are common in people with anorexia nervosa.

Your respective psychologist or psychiatrist may alter and recommend specific kinds of medications depending on your case.

Nutritional Treatment

Nutritional Treatment

Another treatment option for older adults with anorexia nervosa is nutritional treatment. This involves working with a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan. The goal of nutritional treatment is to help the person with anorexia nervosa get the nutrients they need without triggering their disorder. Some of the most common interventions used in nutritional treatment include:

  • Meal planning: Meal planning is a type of intervention that involves working with a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan. This plan includes both the types and amounts of food that the person with anorexia nervosa should eat.
  • Nutrition education: Nutrition education is another type of intervention that involves teaching the person with anorexia nervosa about healthy eating habits. This may include information on portion sizes, balanced meals, and nutrient-dense foods.
  • Cooking classes: Cooking classes are another type of intervention that can be used in nutritional treatment. These classes teach the person with anorexia nervosa how to cook healthy meals that are low in calories but high in nutrients.
  • Food journaling: Food journaling is a way of helping the person with anorexia nervosa track their eating habits. This can help identify triggers for the disorder and develop strategies to avoid them.
  • Supplements: Supplements are another type of nutritional treatment that help to treat anorexia nervosa. Supplements are typically used when a person with anorexia nervosa is not able to get enough calories and nutrients from their diet. Some of the most common supplements used to treat anorexia nervosa include:

-Vitamins: Vitamins are a type of supplement that can be used to treat anorexia nervosa. Vitamins are essential for good health and can help the body absorb other nutrients.

-Minerals: Minerals are a type of supplement that can be used to treat anorexia nervosa. Minerals are essential for good health and can help the body function properly.

-Protein: Protein is a type of supplement that can be used to treat anorexia nervosa. Protein is essential for growth and development, and can help the body repair and build new tissue.

Your respective dietitian may alter and recommend specific kinds of supplements depending on your case.

Self Help Strategies

Self Help Strategies

In addition to professional treatment, there are a number of self-help strategies that can help in  managing anorexia nervosa. Some of the most common self-help strategies include:

  • Practicing self-love: One of the most important things you can do for yourself if you have anorexia nervosa is to practice self love. This means accepting yourself for who you are and treating yourself with kindness and compassion.
  • Eating mindfully: Another self-help strategy that can be used to manage anorexia nervosa is to eat mindfully. This means being present during meals, paying attention to your hunger cues, and eating only when you’re hungry.
  • Challenging negative thoughts: Negative thinking is a common symptom of anorexia nervosa. One way to challenge these negative thoughts is to write down your thoughts in a journal and then reframe them in a more positive light.
  • Building a support network: A support network can be a valuable asset in managing anorexia nervosa. This network can include family, friends, therapist, or other people who are supportive and understanding.
  • Eating regular meals: One of the most important things you can do if you have anorexia nervosa is to eat regular meals. This means eating three meals a day, at set times, and not skipping any meals.
  • Avoiding triggers: Another self-help strategy is to avoid trigger foods or situations. Trigger foods are typically high in calories or fat, or they may be associated with negative experiences.
  • Exercising regularly: Exercise can be a great way to cope with the stresses of anorexia nervosa. It can also help to improve your mood and to promote healthy eating habits.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can help reduce stress and anxiety. These techniques can also help you feel more in control of your body and your eating habits.
  • Support groups: Support groups provide a space for people with anorexia nervosa to share their experiences and to offer support to one another. These groups can happen online or in person, and they can be a great way to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Anorexia in elderly is a serious mental illness that can have devastating consequences. If you think an elder around you may be struggling, it’s important to seek professional help. The treatment plan typically includes psychological therapy, medication, and nutritional treatment. In addition, there are a number of self-help strategies that can be used to manage the disorder. If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia nervosa, there is help available.

Conclusion

Anorexia in elderly is a serious but often overlooked problem. If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, it’s important to seek professional help. There are a number of treatment options available, as well as self-help strategies that can be used to manage the disorder. With treatment and support, it is possible to recover from anorexia nervosa.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental illness that requires professional treatment. If you think you may be suffering from this disorder, you can consult Mantra Care for treatment options. We have a team of expert mental health professionals as well as nutritionists providing therapy sessions along with nutritional counseling. These services are available globally at pocket-friendly rates with assured confidentiality. You can visit our website for bookings or download our free Android or iOS app for more information!

Try MantraCare Wellness Program free