Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder related to eating. The four basic criteria for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa are: the refusal to maintain a minimum, standard body weight; an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat; a grossly distorted self perception; and at least three consecutive missed periods in women. About 95% of those affected by this condition are female, and the manifestation of this condition is typically during early adolescence. Athletes, models, dancers and actors are more at risk for this condition. Gross weight loss; depression; irritability; lack of sleep, attention and concentration; and an obsession with food, are common symptoms of this condition.
The Ayurvedic treatment of anorexia nervosa is aimed at achieving weight gain and correcting the distorted thinking and self-image of persons affected with this disorder. It is also important to prevent complications resulting from this condition, which can prove to be serious or life-threatening. Medicines like Vishwa (Zinziber officinalis), Marich (Piper nigrum), Pippali (Piper longum), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Kuchla (Strychnos nuxvomica), Agnitundi-Vati, Chitrakadi-Vati, Lashunadi-Vati, Shankh-Vati and Hingashtak-Churna are used to improve appetite and help in digestion of food. Other medicines like Chyawanprash-Awaleha, Panchamrut-Parpati and Suvarna-Parpati can also be used for weight gain.
In order to treat the psychological component of this condition, medicines like Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Kushmand (Benincasa hispida), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) and Sarpagandha (Raulwofia serpentina) are used. Medicines like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Samudrashosh (Argyreia speciosa), Jayphal (Myristica fragrans) and Khurasani ova (Hyoscyamus niger) serve the dual purpose of improving appetite and weight, and treating the psychiatric condition of the patient. To prevent cardiac complications, medicines like Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Shrung-Bhasma and Bruhat-Vat-Chintamani are used.
Cognitive behaviour therapy, group therapy, family therapy and individual counseling therapy help a lot in the management of anorexia nervosa. This disease is among the psychiatric conditions with the highest mortality rate; with victims either dying from complications of the disease or as a result of suicide. All such patients should therefore be under the regular care and supervision of a Physician and a Psychiatrist.