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Anorexia - Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on December 13, 2015
What for others means a snack, for an anorectic it represents a whole meal
What for others means a snack, for an anorectic it represents a whole meal | Source

About and Statistics

Anorexia is classified as a mental illness in the international board of classification of mental disorders and it is the third most common chronic illness in the world. This illness is much more frequent in girls rather than boys, the ration being of 10 girls who suffer from this disorder to one boy, and the age at which these girls start experiencing symptoms or the full illness is getting younger and younger, the starting age situating around 10-11 years old.

This is a mental disorder that need special attention and help, especially from people around the person who is affected because they don't realize they have the disease, so they won't seek treatment, which can lead to serious problems, including death in more than 10% of the cases.

Even if it is most common in younger women, anorexia can appear at any age when the person in question losses sense of reality and starts seeing themselves differently than people around them.

Anorectics have a distorted image of their body, seeing themselves fatter than they really are
Anorectics have a distorted image of their body, seeing themselves fatter than they really are | Source

Causes of Anorexia

Sometimes anorexia and depression go hand in hand, making people who suffer from depression more likely to develop anorexia especially if they are in the process of losing weight while battling depression.

There are three factors that influence anorexia: psychological, social and biological.

Psychological factor refers to stressful events that can trigger the disease: divorce, losing a loved one, divorce of parents, trauma, being molested, having a wrong vision of what they actually look like, if they are obese or they have family members that are obese, trying to reach perfectionism, if they abuse substances, suffer from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or having personality disorders, not being able to cope with different emotions states and situations.

The social factor is actually the worst because it can be controlled, coming from outside and not being able to stop it. The promotion that skinniness receives through all the Mass Media channels. If the person in question has a job that requires a certain weight and they have trouble maintaining it can lead to anorexia, jobs like gymnasts, models, ballerinas, dancers, actresses and actors, and other similar positions.

The biological factor refers to having a parent or a first-degree relative that suffers, or has suffered, either from anorexia or depression. In these people's cases the chances of inheriting the illness are higher than compared to someone who doesn't have this in the genes.

The lack of zinc, serotonin, tryptophan and a few other substances can lead in time to anorexia because these substances are the ones that regulate the appetite, and when their levels are down the person in question doesn't feel hunger anymore so they eat less.

Weighing themselves multiple times during the day is a sign of Anorexia
Weighing themselves multiple times during the day is a sign of Anorexia | Source

Symptoms of Anorexia

The symptoms of anorexia are clear to everyone surrounding the person, but not to the person in question. Just like in the case of depression, anorexia isn't perceived by the affected person as a problem, but rather as they are holding control over what they are eating, being able this way to reach the desired weight goal.

The problem is that the goal keeps moving as they lose the weight, and they never seem to reach the end and be content with what they've got.

People suffering from anorexia have the tendency to overreact in every aspect related to their look. They eat less and less every day, they restrain from certain high caloric foods, or the ones they see it as high caloric, weigh themselves daily or even more times during the day, count the calories in every food, avoid eating out, abuse laxatives, slimming pills or teas, makes them vomit what they eat if they think that food brought them more weight, play with the food and rearrange it on the plate to seem like they have eaten, they create intense exercise programs that exhausts them because they want to look good.

If someone has at least some of the above-mentioned behaviors and, plus that, they talk about food all the time, presenting it either in a negative way or expressing their desire to eat a lot, but mention that they restrain from doing that, and also look or say that they are feeling tired, they lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time, they are on the normal limits and still they say they look or feel fat, then you should be concerned that they might suffer from anorexia.

The symptoms of anorexia might be many and complex, but they are relatively easy to see in a suffering person. The main things that can make you think if your friend or relative is suffering from anorexia is if they talk about how bad they look, they avoid eating, always talking about how much weight they've gained and fearing that if eating that certain food will make them even fatter, and they are losing weight rapidly, but still making them unsatisfied with their look.

The effects of anorexia on the body are visible and unpleasant depending on how severe the illness got. Dry skin, an abnormal menstruation or the absence of it on women and impotence on men, constipation, fragile and thin hair, brittle nails, tingling or coldness in hands and feet, feeling cold, not being able to concentrate or having problems memorizing things, feeling dizzy or like fainting, having blue skin due to all the veins that show through the skin, low blood pressure, and the list can go on. They are all the result of anorexia.

Treatment of Anorexia

There isn't actually a treatment for anorexia based on medication since that proved to be inefficient over time, but there are still researches to be made in order to find a medication that can help.

The treatment is mostly based on therapy and, if the anorexia is accompanied by depression, medication used in treating depression, and some additional vitamins and minerals to replace the ones lost over the time they deprived from food not getting the necessary nutrients.

The sufferer needs to be hospitalized if the illness is severe, and the main action is to help them gain weight. If their case isn't that advanced they can be treated at home, under the careful supervision of family because the anorexic person can very easily fall back to the old habits, so they need to be under constant control, but done in such matter that it doesn't stress them, putting more pressure on them which will make them relapse.

When it comes to young children of teenagers, the parents need to understand where it all started. If it is a pressure from school they are feeling, being bullied, or something from the family like a divorce, not feeling wanted or loved, moving a lot, or if it just is a way of perception, seeing themselves fatter than they really are.

They need to know they are loved, supported and understood, and that they are accepted no matter what shape they are. Listen to their problems and don't try to minimize them, but actually help them find a way to overcome the problems.

The Conclusion

I wrote this article not to scare you, not to impress you, but to help all of you recognize what Anorexia is, what her symptoms are and how you should react toward the people you love who might have it or is on the verge of having it.

Just remember that you should take this article as a guide, but in no way should it replace the opinion of a doctor.

People who have Anorexia won't recognize or accept that they have it, so it is up to the people around them to try to help. They will most likely hate all of those who interfere and insist they have a problem when they keep on telling you they don't, but I believe it is better to have their hate for a short while and their love for the rest of the life, rather than their love for a short time and lose them afterwards. Just my opinion.

Do you know anyone who is suffering, or has suffered, from Anorexia?

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    • florypaula profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for your comment North Wind. Mass media is probably the worst thing when it comes to their standards of how people should look like, especially girls and women. Maybe when we will understand that we should aim for health, not skinny, we will be able to treat a lot of modern world problems.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      3 years ago from The World (for now)

      I did know one person who suffered from anorexia. She was able to beat it and become healthy again. Anorexia is a terrible illness and I fear that there are many who are driven to it because of the pressure society puts on them to be thin.

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