Anorexia Nervosa, simply known as Anorexia is an eating disorder that can be characterized by three key factors: having a dangerously low weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. People suffering from anorexia go to extremes to control their weight, disrupting normal life functioning. Restricting their calorie intake becomes an obsession. In addition, they may take supplements such as laxatives and diet aids to lose weight, as well as engage in excessive exercise. Anorexia differs from bulimia nervosa, despite the occurrence of similar behaviors such as binge eating and purging. People suffering from anorexia have an abnormally low weight while sufferers of bulimia tend to have a normal weight.
Symptoms of anorexia are emotional and behavioral at first. Emotional symptoms include depressed mood and heightened anxiety. Behavioral symptoms include rejection of food, denial of hunger and social withdrawal. Once the individual begins to lose weight, physical symptoms develop, such as fatigue, dizziness, low blood pressure and the tendency to faint. Anorexia can be fatal. Complications of anorexia include heart problems and hormonal imbalances leading to the absence of menstruation in females and lowered testosterone in males. Due to low intake of nutrients such as calcium, bones become brittle and are more prone to fractures. Other problems include hair loss, skin problems and teeth falling out. In severe cases malnourishment can lead to organ failure.
Anorexia is caused by a number of biological, environmental and psychological factors. It has not yet been found which gene is responsible for making individuals vulnerable towards anorexia. However people who are perfectionists are more likely to develop this disorder. Environmental factors include a societal obsession with thinness, reflected in unrealistic advertisements and standards beauty. This creates intense pressure to be thin – especially vulnerable are girls with low self-esteem. Lastly, psychological factors can be responsible for the development of anorexia as young women who have obsessive-compulsive traits tend to stick to abnormal eating rituals easily. Statistically women have a higher tendency to develop anorexia than men and it’s an illness that targets mostly teens – individuals above 40 rarely suffer from it. Any stressful life changes such as losing a loved one or moving homes can increase the risk of developing anorexia.
Anorexia is a potentially dangerous condition that requires medical intervention. There are a variety of treatments based on the severity of the disease. In serious cases the treatment focuses on symptoms such as heart arrhythmia, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Cognitive behavior therapy helps the individual re-assess thoughts linked to body image. Family therapy is an excellent form of treatment as young patients can attend with their family in order to learn how to restore healthy weight and learn about proper nutrition. One of the most important factors for treatment is for the patient is to have unconditional support from immediate family.