Anorexia nervosa, more commonly known as anorexia, is an eating disorder. People suffering restrict their food intake as they have a strong desire to be thin and fear the prospect of weight gain. Their bodies are characteristically low in weight. Many suffering people are in denial that they have a problem. They consider themselves overweight even though they are in fact underweight. They frequently measure their weight, eat only certain foods in minute amounts. Excessive exercise, forcibly vomiting and using laxatives to produce weight loss are also seen in anorexic people.
Anorexia leads to certain complications such as osteoporosis, infertility and heart damage, among others. Women will often stop having menstrual periods.
People of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnicities are affected by anorexia. Historians and psychologists have found evidence of people displaying symptoms of anorexia for hundreds or thousands of years. People in non-Westernized areas, such as rural China and Africa, have also been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Anorexia leads to certain complications such as osteoporosis, infertility and heart damage, among others. Women will often stop having menstrual periods.
… Psychological, environmental, and social factors contribute to the development of anorexia.
The exact causes of anorexia nervosa are unknown. However, the condition sometimes runs in families; young women with a parent or sibling with an eating disorder are likelier to develop one themselves. Then there are psychological, environmental, and social factors that may contribute to the development of anorexia.
There are two common types of anorexia:
- Binge/Purge – The individual suffering will purge when he or she eats. This is typically a result of the overwhelming feelings of guilt a sufferer would experience in relation to eating; they compensate by vomiting, abusing laxatives, or excessively exercising.
- Restrictive – In this form, the individual will fiercely limit the quantity of food consumed, characteristically ingesting a minimal amount that is well below their body’s caloric needs, effectively slowly starving him or herself.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness
Here are some facts regarding anorexia:
- The third most common chronic disease among young people, after asthma and type 1 diabetes, is anorexia.
- Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 with anorexia have 10 times the risk of dying compared to their same-aged peers.
- Males represent 25% of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and they are at a higher risk of dying, in part due to the fact that they are often diagnosed later since many people assume males don’t have eating disorders.
- Subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among males as they are among females.
- Incidence of anorexia has been increasing over the last 50 years only in females aged 15 to 24. Incidence remained stable in other age groups and in males.
- Eating disorder symptoms are beginning earlier in both males and females, which agrees with both formal research and clinical reports.
- Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness (including major depression). The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old. Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.
However anorexia is very much a treatable disorder. There are eating disorder specialists all over the world to help a suffering person.
How do you help a loved one who is suffering from anorexia?
There a many ways one can help a loved one.
- Support the person with love and care. Remember the person has to accept help to get better.
- Be a role model with positive inputs. Refrain from making negative comments about their body or anyone else’s body.
- Seek professional advice. Bring friends and family to support group.
- Anorexic person needs kindness and support. That means nagging or scolding a person to eat is not the way to go.
- Anorexia is often a symptom of extreme emotional distress and develops out of an attempt to manage emotional pain stress, and/or self-hate. Negative communication will only make it worse. Thus no threats, scare tactics, angry outbursts, and put-downs are acceptable.
How long does it take to recover from anorexia?
Research carried out in Australia suggests that the average duration of anorexia is eight years and five years for bulimia. However, these illnesses can also become severe and enduring, lasting for many years and having a hugely debilitating effect on the sufferers and their families.
Here is story of a You-tuber of her journey of battling anorexia.