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Eating Disorders - Anorexia Nervosa

Updated on December 12, 2011

Anorexia Shows


Anorexia Nervosa - What Is It?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder with a strong psychological element that can manifest as an extreme form of dieting that is out of control. It can begin as a harmless desire to lose excess weight by cutting back on over consumption of food, but can soon become more about control issues and self mastery. The individual may feel their lives are spiraling out of control and unwittingly see this as a way of gaining back some control in their lives. It starts to get serious when they lose all sense of perspective, leading to irrational dieting. Although it mostly affects young, middle class, Caucasian women more than others, it can affect anyone at any age and from any background.

Anorexia causes negative changes in a person’s behavior towards food, which is not always evident, as the sufferer will go to great lengths to cover up their food habits. The sufferer will eat less and less food and if they do eat, they will use extreme measures to purge their body of the food, such as self induced vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills and/or excessive exercise.

This obsessive behavior is an attempt to have control over the body and can go so far as to lead to a point of almost starvation, leading to exhaustion and depression. This quickly becomes a dangerous cycle for the individual as they attempt to control their weight beyond that which is healthy and often leads to serious malnutrition. This behavior becomes addictive as they feel they have to do this to feel in control and alleviate feelings of low self esteem and powerlessness.

Risk Groups

It appears that women are more at risk from this condition than men with the ratio being much higher for women at 95% and men at 5%. It also seems to develop in early adolescence, although it can develop much later. It is more common in countries with a high economic status and the figures have been estimated at 1 in 100 young adolescent girls. 76% of reported cases state onsets start at ages 11 - 20.

In the US Anorexia tends to affect middle and upper classes and Caucasians more than less advantaged or ethnic minorities.

Health Consequences of Anorexia

Health can suffer greatly through a lack of important nutrients and nourishment, and the body including the main organs can break down (sometimes fatally) due to malnutrition. Some of the consequences can include heart rhythmic disturbances, loss or decrease in bone density, digestive problems, anemia and hormonal imbalances. Some females who have suffered this condition for a number of years may also experience fertility problems.

Causes of Anorexia

An exaggerated fear of losing control is mainly driven by low self esteem issues and ensuing constant self criticism. Anorexia is defined as a psychological disorder with the patient suffering from a distorted body image and an irrational fear of becoming overweight.

Further Information

Anorexia has a very high mortality rate, with 6% of sufferers dying, 3% of that figure being through suicide. It is a complex condition, with many people continuing to suffer from it despite undergoing treatment. There is no known cure for this condition, but treatment can help the individual to understand and overcome the difficulties associated with the condition and seek the help they need.

It can help for the sufferer and their family and friends to learn as much about this condition as possible. This will help people to understand the nature of the condition and how they can support a loved one, it can also help carers to understand the person is not deliberately harming themselves and does not want to die.

Famous people who have died from complications suffered through eating disorders are, Karen Carpenter (singer), Lena Zavaroni (singer), Christy Henrich (gymnast) and Margaux Hemingway (actress/model), this is only a few, sadly there have been many more.

More information can be found at:

For USA: Tel: 800.931.2237 Tel: 1.866.615.6464

For UK: Tel: 0845-838-2040 Tel: 0845-634-1414 Youthline: 0845-634-7650

The above Organisations can offer help, support and expert information for all ages, and offer a confidential and caring service to the all sufferers and their families and friends.

Anorexia - The Ugly Truth

French model Isabelle Caro, who starred in the Italian Ad campaign called "No Anorexia", which brought awareness to millions of people, with Isabelle showing her emaciated appearance (see the above video, she is the second woman shown). Isabelle was a model, even though she was so painfully thin,she worked hard in the anti-anorexia campaign to bring awareness of the damage caused by trying to be slim and what anorexia can do to the body and mind. Sadly Isabelle died, in November 17th last year, aged only 28. She had written a book called "The little girl who didn't want to get fat" and had suffered from anorexia since she was 13 years old. How very sad, that even while receiving help, it wasn't enough to save her.

This is a very dangerous condition and more awareness is needed to teach women of all ages how life threatening and dangerous this illness is. Healthier images are needed when promoting fashion for women and girls.

Erin O'Connor, a healthy, slim model is campaigning against eating disorders too, after she refused to starve herself to fit into the designer outfits. She is promoting a healthier image for women - let's support this image so that women can enjoy being a normal size, and stop trying to model ourselves on an impossible "perfect" image.



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    • Allison Hope profile image

      Allison 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks blairtracy, I hope it helps too, I just hate the pressure we're under to look thin, especially for young girls - it's awful, hopefully with enough information people can avoid this:)

    • blairtracy profile image

      blairtracy 6 years ago from Canada

      Great information! I hope it helps to open the eyes of others and help those in need.