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Anorexia Nervosa, more commonly referred to as anorexia, is a very dangerous eating disorder that affects both men and women. People with anorexia limit their food intake greatly, consuming only a small amount of calories per day. They also tend to exercise excessively and maintain a very low bodyweight. People with Anorexia Nervosa tend to have a very unhealthy relationship with food and suffer from low self-esteem and poor body image.
Common Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:
- Rapid weight loss
- In women, irregular or absent periods
- Dry skin, thinning scalp hair, growth of fine facial/body hair
- Low blood pressure and fatigue
- Upset stomach
- Scars on knuckles (from purging)
- Distorted view of body
- Refusal to eat in front of others or creates meals for others but won’t eat
- Obsessive-compulsiveness, perfectionism
- Worried about calories and fat content
- Constant weighing
- Cutting food into tiny pieces
- Eating only a few select foods
- Compulsive exercising
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia occurs in all kinds of people. While the exact cause is not clear, it is considered to be a psychological disorder. Often times, people with anorexia also suffer from other illnesses such as depression, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, anxiety and so on. People who develop anorexia sometimes have had difficult pasts that include abuse, overwhelming stress or pressure and trauma. Anorexia Nervosa usually goes hand in hand with a fear of failure, a tendency toward perfectionism, and a family history of anorexia. People with anorexia suffer from a poor body image and low self-esteem, and they feel that they are overweight or unattractive despite hearing the opposite from others. Anorexia and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) are two separate illnesses, although they are often related.
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa is positively reliant on support from others. The most effective way to seek help is to regularly see a therapist. Sometimes, medications are prescribed, especially if depression or anxiety is also present. The main elements of treatment include a revision of diet and exercise programs, the implementation of important minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids that aid in the healing process and a combination of psychotherapy and cognitive therapy. All of these things separately or combined help a sufferer of anorexia rebuild a healthy way of thinking and acting.
What Should You Do?
If you or somebody you know is suffering from anorexia, please seek help immediately. If you are seeking help for someone else, please understand that it is a very delicate topic, and when being confronted, a person with anorexia may be very defensive. But it is still vital to get help. Talk to your regular doctor, your school counselor or a local therapist to see what the next step should be. If you are afraid and unsure, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association’s toll-free hotline at 1-800-931-223.
Links and Resources for Further Reading
- The University of Maryland Medical Center
- Cleveland Clinic
- Family Doctor
- Wikipedia – Wikipedia page about Anorexia Nervosa, including symptoms and comorbid disorders.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI website with extensive information about anorexia.
- University of Maryland Medical Center – Information about anorexia, with thorough symptoms list.
- Cleveland Clinic – Website with lots of information about anorexia, as well as how to get help.
- Familydoctor.org – Website with links and resources for anorexia.