A person who looks fit and fine can be dangerously ill, says a recent study on atypical anorexia.
Traditionally, individuals had to be below 85 per cent of their ideal body weight to receive a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, a disorder characterised by restrictive eating, over-exercising, distorted body image and intense fear of weight gain.
But in 2013, a new category of an eating disorder was formally recognised: atypical anorexia nervosa. Individuals with this condition meet all other diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa but have normal body weight.
“This group of patients is underrecognized and undertreated,” said the study’s senior author, Neville Golden, MD, professor of paediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine.
“Our study showed that they can be just as sick medically and psychologically as anorexia nervosa patients who are underweight,” added Golden.
The study shows that large, rapid weight loss is the best predictor of medical and psychological problems in patients with atypical anorexia, not their body weight at diagnosis.
Dangerously low heart rate and blood pressure, as well as serious electrolyte imbalances and psychological problems, are common in patients with atypical anorexia whose weight is within a normal range, the study found.