The Effects of Pharmacological Treatment on Anorexia Nervosa

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The Effects of Pharmacological Treatment on Anorexia Nervosa

The Characteristics of Anorexia Nervosa

Individuals with anorexia nervosa are so successful at losing weight that they put their lives in a great deal of danger. Although dramatic weight loss is the most noticeable feature of the disease, anorexics also have an intense fear of obesity and pursue thinness with unparallelled ambition (Bruch, 1986). Anorexia is most common among females, with only about five percent of those suffering from the disease being male. It is also most likely to develop in young females as a result of societal pressures on women to remain slim. The DSM-4 criteria for anorexia nervosa contains the following factors : maintenance of a body weight
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Although a significant number of patients treated with this drug gained weight faster and were discharged sooner than those who received no medication, the chlorpromazine treated patients were no better off than those who were not treated with medicine on the follow-up, suggesting no beneficial effects of this medication. Also, the side effects of chlorpromazine were horrific. A number of the patients developed very serious seizures, and almost half of them developed bulimia nervosa.

Vandereycken and Pierloot's (1982) study using pimozide was based on the finding that increased central dopaminergic activity might be a cause of anorexia. Although no change occurred in the patients' behavior or attitude, a very small, but significant, increase in the mean daily weight gain did occur. In 1984, Vandereycken followed up with a study on the antipsychotic drug, sulpiride. However, no statistically significant effects of sulpiride occurred on either the mean daily weight change or the behavioral and attitudinal characteristics of the patients.

Due to the inability to clearly determine if neuroleptics do help in the treatment of anorexia, interest in the use of this type of medication has greatly decreased. Also, the horrific side effects have led some clinicians away from neuroleptics. However, in very occasional rare cases, experienced clinicians have used antipsychotic medication to treat anorexia.

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