How To Get Over An Eating Disorder Without Gaining Weight An Introduction to Anorexia Nervosa

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An Introduction to Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an obsession with extremely low body weight, distorted body image, and an intense fear of putting on any weight. Additionally, it is considered a mental disorder because a person suffering from anorexia is obsessed with controlling their body and body weight. Over time this obsession becomes an addiction just like any other substance or drug addiction.

Like other eating disorders, anorexia is more likely to occur before or after puberty, affecting women more than men. Approximately, 95% of people suffering from anorexia are adolescent females. However, this eating disorder is not limited to teenagers and can affect women at any stage of her life. Similarly, males and especially adolescent males are also at risk of developing this eating disorder. Estimates in the US say that one in every 100 teenage girls suffers from anorexia. Also, Caucasians have been found to be more prone to anorexia compared to other races in the US. Apparently a person’s socio-economic background also influences this eating disorder as it has been found to be more common in those from middle or upper socio-economic backgrounds.

Anorexia can be of two types: restrictive type and purging type. In restriction type anorexia, people try to control their body weight by restricting food intake and excessive exercise. On the other hand, the purging type of anorexia is characterized by overeating, followed by self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics, restrictions on food intake and excessive exercise.

As with many other mental disorders, the biggest obstacle to diagnosing this condition is that people who suffer from it are often in denial that they don’t think they have a problem. People suffering from anorexia are unlikely to seek professional help on their own and in most cases seek medical care only through the intervention of family and friends. However, the following are common criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia:

  • Refusal to maintain less than normal body weight
  • Extreme fear of gaining weight
  • Inability to accept true body weight, or weight loss, i.e. distortion of body image
  • Missing at least three consecutive menstrual cycles

Anorexia can lead to various physical and psychological problems if left untreated. Individuals suffering from anorexia are prone to violent mood swings. Their hair and nails become brittle and their skin turns yellow. They are prone to hypothermia due to loss of body mass and they may also develop a thin layer of fine hair on their body. If anorexia extends beyond this stage, it can damage internal organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver and brain. This affects one’s pulse rate and blood pressure, which is likely to decrease. Bones become weak and prone to breaking. In severe cases, starvation due to anorexia can also prove fatal.

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