Anorexia Nervosa

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It's only human to wish you looked different or could fix something about yourself. But when a preoccupation with being thin takes over your eating habits, thoughts, and life, it's a sign of an eating disorder. When you have anorexia, the desire to lose weight becomes more important than anything else. You may even lose the ability to see yourself as you truly are.

 

What is anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a complex eating disorder. There are three key features;

  • Refuse to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Fear of gaining weight.
  • A distorted body image.

Because of your fear of becoming fat or disgusted with how your body looks, eating and meal may be very stressful and what you can and can’t eat is practically all you can think about.

Thoughts about dieting, food and your body may take up most of your day, leaving little time for friends, family, and other activities you used to enjoy. Life becomes a relentless pursuit of thinness and going to extremes to lose weight.

But no matter how skinny you become, it’s never enough.

While people with anorexia often deny having a problem, the truth is that anorexia is a serious and potentially deadly eating disorder. Fortunately, recovery is possible.

Anorexia is not about weight or food, these issues are symptoms of something deeper like depression, loneliness, insecurity, pressure to be perfect or feeling out of control.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Dieting despite being thin
  • Obsession with calories, fat grams and nutrition
  • Lying about eating
  • Secretive food rituals
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Feeling fat, despite being thin
  • Critical of appearance
  • Compulsive exercising
  • Using laxatives
  • Purging after eating

Causes:

Anorexia is a condition that arises from a combination of many social, emotional and biological factors. Other causes may include family environment, emotional difficulties, low self-esteem and traumatic experiences in the past.

People with anorexia are often perfectionists and overachievers. Pressure of being thin such as participating in ballet, gymnastics or modeling may also lead to anorexia. Anorexia may also run in families.

People with anorexia tent to have high levels of cortisol, the brain hormone related to stress, and decreased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are associated with feelings of wellbeing.

Effects of anorexia:

  • Mood swings
  • Lack of energy and weakness
  • Slowed thinking and poor memory
  • Dry skin and brittle nails
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • Dizziness, fainting and headaches
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body and face

Steps to recovery:

  • Admit you have a problem
  • Talk to someone
  • Stay away from people, places and activities that trigger your obsession
  • Seek professional help
  • Get back to a healthy weight
  • Change how you think about yourself
  • When you are in medical danger, hospitalization may be necessary.

Encouraging an anorexic friend or family member to get treatment is the most caring and supportive thing you can do.

It’s deeply distressing to know that someone you love may be struggling with anorexia. There’s no way to solve the problem yourself, but there are different treatment options available to help that person and to boost their confidence and self-esteem and to help them get back to a healthy weight and lifestyle.

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