According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, almost 29 million Americans will suffer from a form of eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders, with between 0.3 and 0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men suffering from it.
So, what is anorexia? What are some of the signs and symptoms of anorexia? And what might happen to a person if they don’t get help with their anorexia?
We’re going to set out to answer all of these questions and more in this article so that you’re able to identify if you or someone you know might have anorexia. Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about anorexia.
What Is Anorexia?
As we just alluded to, anorexia nervosa is one of the many types of eating disorders that millions of American men and women suffer from every year. It has turned into one of the most prevalent eating disorders, next to other disorders like bulimia and binge eating disorder.
The thing that sets anorexia apart from other eating disorders is that it’s a condition that results in people essentially starving themselves in an attempt to lose as much weight as they can. Those with anorexia will often have intense fears that involve them gaining weight, and this will lead to them trying to restrict food as much as possible in an attempt to make themselves thin.
People with anorexia will also sometimes engage in compulsive exercise routines to burn off any calories that they do take in by eating. They have a complicated relationship with food and exercise, and it will typically lead to them being underweight and lacking vital vitamins and minerals in their diets.
Who Is Affected by Anorexia?
At the end of the day, anyone can suffer from anorexia. There are, however, some people who seem to be more prone to suffering from anorexia than others.
As we mentioned a few moments ago, women are more likely to suffer from anorexia than men. Those who are overachievers also appear to be more likely to develop anorexia than other people.
Additionally, those in certain professions that put an emphasis on appearance have a greater chance of being diagnosed with anorexia. This includes:
Just because a person doesn’t fall into any of these categories, though, doesn’t mean that they can’t have anorexia. Anorexia can affect anyone who is concerned about their appearance and/or their weight.
What Causes Anorexia?
There is still a lot of research being done on anorexia to try and figure out what exactly causes it. As of right now, researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint why some people are more prone to anorexia than others.
But some early studies have suggested that certain emotions, thinking patterns, and personality traits could be to blame for anorexia. They’ve also indicated that those who suffer from anorexia might use the control that it provides to combat things like anxiety, low self-esteem, and loneliness.
Some research has also shown that anorexia might be hereditary since it isn’t all that uncommon for those in the same families to suffer from it. Additional research is needed to narrow down the potential causes of anorexia, but it does seem as though a combination of things may cause it.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia?
When a person is suffering from anorexia, they might be able to get away with hiding it for a little while. But eventually, many of the signs and symptoms of anorexia will begin to become apparent.
Here are some of the more obvious signs and symptoms of anorexia:
- Rapid weight loss
- Excessive dieting
- Unhealthy fear of gaining weight
- Odd eating behaviors
- Extremely self-critical, especially when it comes to weight
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Social withdrawal
There are also many physical signs and symptoms of anorexia that will start to show up at some point if the disorder gets to be bad enough. They include things like dry skin, brittle nails, tooth decay, swollen joints, and constipation.
What Does It Take to Diagnose Anorexia?
Unfortunately, anorexia can be very difficult to diagnose. This is due in large part to the fact that those suffering from anorexia will often go out of their way to try and hide it.
If, however, a doctor suspects that a person might be suffering from anorexia, they will typically run a series of tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing a person to lose weight rapidly. They will also recommend that a person see a psychologist in an effort to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
But all of this will, of course, require a person suffering from anorexia to subject themselves to check-ups with a doctor and meetings with a psychiatrist. If they aren’t willing to work with these people to get a diagnosis, their anorexia can go untreated.
How Is Anorexia Treated?
If a person is found to have anorexia and they’re willing to work at having it treated, there are treatment options available. But they will need to be up for the challenge of going through a bunch of different eating disorder treatment stages.
Because anorexia can be such a tough disorder to diagnose, each individual person suffering from it will need to take a different path when receiving treatment. But generally speaking, treatment for anorexia will include:
- Nutrition counseling
- Family therapy
In some cases, a person diagnosed with anorexia might also need to be hospitalized for a few days before they can start taking the other treatment steps. It all depends on how long they’ve been battling this eating disorder and what kind of a toll it has taken on their body.
What Can Happen If a Person Leaves Anorexia Untreated?
Ideally, everyone suffering from anorexia would be open to the idea of getting treatment for it. But sadly, not everyone with anorexia will go through with treatment, and it can potentially do some real damage to their bodies.
A person with anorexia can damage many of the organs in their body, including their heart, kidneys, and even brain by not taking in enough healthy foods. They can also cause their bones to become thinner, lose their hair, and develop an irregular heartbeat.
There have even been some cases where people have starved themselves to death by refusing to eat because of anorexia. For all these reasons, you should check yourself for signs and symptoms of anorexia and keep an eye on others as well.
There is hope for those who are suffering from anorexia. But it’s important for people to get the help they need before it’s too late.
Is It Possible to Prevent Anorexia?
There isn’t a surefire way to prevent a person from suffering from anorexia. But there are some relatively simple steps that people can take to reduce the chances of those around them suffering from it.
For instance, parents can work on helping their kids to develop a healthy relationship with food from a young age. They can also steer clear of making unnecessary critical comments about their children’s bodies.
People can also be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of anorexia in those around them. Those dealing with anorexia will do their best to hide it, but it’s sometimes difficult for them to do this when they’re losing a lot of weight or not eating as they should.
If you suspect that someone you know might be suffering from anorexia, it may be worth having a conversation with them about it. Or at the very least, it may be worth bringing it up with someone who is closer to them than you are so that they can try to come up with a plan of action.
It’s never easy to bring up a sensitive subject like anorexia. But those with it might continue to suffer in silence if the people around them don’t reach out and lend a helping hand.
People Should Always Get Help for Anorexia ASAP
There is a chance that anorexia could prove to be fatal for some people if they aren’t able to get the necessary treatment for it. It’s why people should take anorexia seriously and pay attention to the signs and symptoms of anorexia.
You should also keep your eyes peeled for the signs and symptoms of other eating disorders. You may be able to provide a person close to you with help simply by noticing that their relationship with food or their outlook on body image doesn’t seem to be quite right.
Find more health-related information by reading through our other blog articles.