Anorexia Nervosa is a mental condition which affects one’s both physical and mental health. It is a condition that causes one to have a distorted self-image and forces themselves to starve even if their body weight is already dangerously low. They often restrict their food intake to the point where they are extremely thin. Anorexia is found to occur most often in women, especially those who are aged 15 to 35. There have been cases reported as early as the age of 7 and as late as the age of 80. Researchers believe that about 5 to 10 percent of women overall have a distorted body image but approximately 1 to 2 percent of those women suffer from anorexia nervosa. Often at times anorexia can begin during the early teen years. Over 90 percent of the victims of anorexia are found to be women but yet many cases go unnoticed or unreported.
The definition of one who is anorexic is that they are approximately about 15 percent underweight for their age and height, yet still refuses to gain the weight required to be at the minimal standard. They have an intense fear of gaining weight and often starve themselves to the point where there are not receiving the proper nutrients and intake required for a healthy diet. Often anorexics restrict themselves to fewer than 1000 calories per day and may even go as low as 100 calories a day.
Anorexia Nervosa has often been associated with both being a physical and mental disease. The number one cause of anorexia has often been believed to be a low self-esteem and a distorted body image. In fact, many anorexics think they are fat when in reality they are just the normal weight for their age and height. Often one develops anorexia in order to obtain a perfect body image in their perception. The goal to obtain the perfect body results in an obsession with dieting, weight and exercise. Those who suffer from anorexia are often depressed, withdrawn, or may feel the need to be in control. They may feel that starving themselves gives them total control of their body. Also, anorexics can be perfectionists, which may cause the need to have the ideal body. Another cause of anorexia has been said to be the image produced by the media and society, which portrays the ideal person to be fit and thin. Many anorexics have been said to believe that they only way to be considered attractive and successful was to be thin. Pressure from families and peeps has also been stated as a caused for anorexia. Comments about their appearance and weight have driven anorexics to starve themselves. As well, previous abuse has also driven people to become anorexic.
The symptoms of anorexia can be broken down into two main aspects: physical and behavioral. The physical symptoms of anorexia include a stop in the menstrual cycle, fatigue, weakness, hair loss and a change in the patterns of the heart. Often the loss of the menstrual cycle is one of the most common side effects of anorexia. One who is anorexic can be prone to fainting, dizziness and abnormal heart behavior. Also, anorexia can cause dry, brittle hair and bones and failure in the function of the kidney. A victim of anorexia may also be prone low blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. Meanwhile, the behavioral effects of anorexia can include depression, lack of sleep, irritability and they may become withdrawn from friends and family. Another symptom of anorexia is an obsession with exercise. Anorexics have been known to exercise for hours at a time for almost all of the days of the week. They may also become obsessed with the food they eat, the amount of food that they take in, and may even deny that they have a problem. Often they cut their food into tiny pieces or eat food slowly and may even dispose of food secretly. In fact, about 30 percent of anorexics begin to have Bulimia Nervosa, which is the process of eating food but then using laxatives to induce vomiting.
There are many ways to treat a victim of anorexia. One method is by psychological counseling. A problem with treating anorexia is getting the victim to first admit that they have a problem, and to not deny their illness any longer. Through counseling, the root of the victims’ problem is found. They are helped to find and recognize their distorted view of their body. Also any form of abuse they may have been through is brought up and often family members are in counseling sessions to help the victim. It has been found that group-counseling sessions have been found to be useful because a common perception of the problem is found. For the physical aspect of anorexia, weight gain is the first step to recovery. Some patients may even have to be hospitalized because their weight loss has been so severe. Physicians may prescribe gradual increases in food intake and dietary supplements, and tell a patient not to exercise. In the most severe cases, especially if a patient resists instructions to eat, nutrients and fluids may be administered intravenously. During hospitalization, patients receive both physical and mental care. They may have to stay there for a few days or even weeks at a time to help treat anorexia. However, the mental effects of this disease may take longer to treat. With both physical and mental care, anorexia can often be treated and its effects can be reversed. Researchers estimate that of those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, 42 percent recover, 30 percent improve somewhat, and more than 20 percent suffer from a chronic eating disorder. New ways are being found to prevent anorexia. Through self-image awareness, the virtues of self-esteem and acceptance are being promoted. Perhaps with less emphasis in society over appearance, anorexia may finally be prevented.
The Causes and Effects of Anorexia
When I think of anorexia, a few things come to mind. I think of really bad episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 and Baywatch in which females, ususally teenagers, starve themselves and take diet pills. The eating problem is always resolved within the timespan of one 30 minute episode. From the research I’ve done thus far on anorexia, I now know that this is a very unrealistic representation of what is actually a very serious disease.
The purpose of this study is twofold. First, I have done extensive research on the causes and effects of anorexia. Secondly, I will produce a survey that asks basic questions about anorexia. I will give these to young adults from the ages of 15 to 35. This will serve as my means to find out just how much people of that certain age group know about the potentially deadly disease of anorexia. This research is not only to inform myself about anorexia, but also to inform myself about the knowledge or lack thereof that young people have about the disease.
Most people believe that anorexia is mainly a young females’ disease. This is not necessarily true. In fact, studies within the past few years show that male anorexia is about as widespread as in females. In actuality, 80 percent of the people diagnosed with anorexia over the age of 45 are males(Heywood, 1996). Other misconceptions are that anorexia is only common with younger people and that anorexia is not a real disease at all, just a staple of obsessive teenage girls.
Another widespread misconception about the disease of anorexia is that it is a new disease. Actually, doctors say that anorexia has its roots centuries ago. Through different time periods, people have fasted for a number of reasons, they say. People fasted in Biblical times to pay reverence to God or just to exercise self-discipline. Anorexia has been around almost as long as man.(Deth and Vandereycken, 1990)
Basically, anorexia is spread as easily as any other disease. The disease in itself is not contageous, of course; it is spread through society and the media. For example, what is known as the “Barbie doll syndrome” is the main cause of such a mental disease. People starve themselves so that their bodies will match their fashion role models. One strong example of this is the “waif” look that came into mainstream fashion a few years ago. The “in” style was to like like Kate Moss, and girls would do what they had to do to accomplish this
look. Usually, this meant cutting a few meals out of the day.
Fashion, music, movies, television, and radio all contribute to the spread of anorexia.(Bruch, 1979)
The start of anorexia in a particular patient can be difficult to pinpoint. It tends to begin during childhood, and it is usually sparked by some sort of change. These changes can be: going away to camp, switching schools, or playing a team sport. Young people are very vulnerable to harsh comments, and they are also likely to dish them out. These harsh comments often carry a lasting impression on the will-be anorexic. True anorexics typically avoid sexual relations because of their severe disliking and disgust for their own bodies.(Bruch, 1979)
Another possible cause of anorexia in young people is lack of attention from parents. People who become anorexic because of lack of parental attention tend to also obsess in other things. They may push themselves to swim extra laps, run extra miles, lift extra weight. These are all often caused by parents.(Bruch, 1979)
Anorexia is a serious disease. It plagues millions more people every year, and, despite popular belief, it attacks members of all ages and genders. It can be treated and controlled, but if not treated, it can be fatal. Starvation is not only a mental illness, but also phsical starvation, which
kills. Anorexia isn’t exactly what you see on Baywatch.