Anorexia kills people. In fact, this disease enjoys the highest fatality rate of any psychiatric disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that results in unhealthy, often dangerous weight loss. While it is most common among adolescent women, anorexia can affect women and men of all ages and is characterized by a refusal to maintain healthy body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image.
For some people, restricting their food and weight can be a way of controlling areas of life that feel out of their control and their body image can come to define their entire sense of self-worth. It can also be a way of expressing emotions that may feel too complex or frightening such as pain, stress, or anxiety.
Fast Facts on Anorexia:
- Anorexia Nervosa continues to have the highest mortality of all psychiatric conditions.
- Anorexia is not simply a woman’s disease. Men make up about 10% of the entire population that suffers from this eating disorder.
- The problem with this eating disorder might start at a very early age. Research has shown that girls as young as 6 are concerned about what their bodies look like.
- 80% of girls are afraid of becoming fat by the time they reach the age of 10.
- 1 person out of 10 with this eating disorder will never seek out some form of treatment to help them with their issue.
- Men with same-sex attractions are twice as likely to suffer from anorexic thinking patterns.
- Nearly 70% of girls who are 18 or younger say that their ideal body image is influenced by the pictures they see online, in magazines, or in celebrity images.
Major Types of Anorexia
There are two common types of anorexia, which are as follows:
Binge/Purge Type – The individual suffering from this type of eating disorder, will purge when he or she eats. This is typically a result of the overwhelming feelings of guilt a sufferer would experience in relation to eating; they compensate by vomiting, abusing laxatives, or excessively exercising.
Restrictive – In this form, the individual will fiercely limit the quantity of food consumed, characteristically ingesting a minimal amount that is well below their body’s caloric needs, effectively slowly starving him or herself.
Though two classifications of anorexia nervosa exist, both types exhibit similar symptoms, such as irrational fear of weight gain and abnormal eating patterns.
Dieting Vs. Anorexia
Though the restrictive eating patterns that characterize anorexia nervosa are similar to dieting behaviors, there are stark differences between the two. The effects of the extreme behaviors resulting from anorexia nervosa are far more devastating and consequential than dieting.
While someone may diet in an attempt to control weight, anorexia nervosa is often an attempt to gain control over one’s life and emotions, especially in the light of traumatic events or a chaotic environment.
While someone might diet in an attempt to lose weight as the primary goal, in anorexia they may diet because they perceive losing weight as a way to achieve happiness and self-mastery.
- Obvious, rapid, dramatic weight loss
- Soft, fine hair grows on the face and body
- Obsession with calories and fat content
- Preoccupation with food, recipes, or cooking – may cook elaborate dinners for others but not eat themselves.
- Dieting despite being thin or dangerously underweight
- Fear of gaining weight or becoming overweight.
- Food purging: uses laxatives, diet pills, ipecac syrup, and diuretics, may engage in self-induced vomiting.
- May engage in frequent strenuous exercise.
- Perception: perceives self to be overweight despite being told by others they are too thin.
- Becomes intolerant to cold: frequently complains of being cold due to loss of insulating body fat.
- Solitude: may avoid friends and family; becomes withdrawn and secretive.
- Clothing: may wear baggy, loose-fitting clothes to cover weight loss.
- Cheeks may become swollen due to enlargement of the salivary glands by excessive vomiting.