Anorexia is a serious, life-threatening eating disorder that affects both the physical and mental health of the person. It is characterized by an irrational fear of becoming fat, along with a persistent pursuit of a thin figure. Read on to get some information about the signs of anorexia.
Anorexia, also known as anorexia nervosa, is a psychological condition which results in a drastic decrease in the intake of food in order to lose body weight. This eating disorder is characterized by a persistent fear of weight-gain and resulting self-starvation. People with anorexia possess a distorted body image. They believe themselves to be overweight even though they are clinically diagnosed as underweight. There are two types of anorexia: restricted type and binge-eating/purging type of anorexia. Restricted type of anorexia is characterized by weight loss due to reduction in the overall food intake. In the second type of anorexia, people engage in binge and purge behavior in addition to fasting.
No definite cause of anorexia has been determined. However, there are several factors that supposedly contribute to the development of anorexia. They are biological, psychological and even sociocultural. Some people are genetically vulnerable to developing anorexia. People with anorexia have higher levels of cortisol, the brain hormone related to stress. They also have decreased levels of norepinephrine and serotonin that are related to the feelings of happiness and well-being.
People with anorexia may have obsessive-compulsive personality traits and low self-worth, which makes it easier to stick to strict diets. Such people have an extreme drive for perfectionism. Due to cultural, family and social pressure, some people strongly wish to be very slim and skinny. People engaged in activities that demand slenderness such as modeling, ballet or gymnastics are very cautious about their weight and sometimes go overboard in trying to maintain their weight. Sometimes, stressful events such as a relationship breakup, career failure or the onset of puberty and peer pressure can trigger anorexia.
Signs and Symptoms
There are a number of signs and symptoms that indicate a development of anorexia. People with anorexia lose their weight mainly through a severely restricted diet. They often disguise their eating habits and other physical problems. They may try to lose their weight through excessive exercising. They tend to control the calorie intake by vomiting after eating or by misusing diuretics, laxatives or enemas. Some of the most common signs are extreme weight loss, a very thin appearance, very little food consumption, avoidance of food and frequent use of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics. The signs can also be categorized as physical, psychological, and behavioral.
- Frail appearance
- Extreme weight loss
- Abnormal blood count
- Thin and broken hair
- Hair loss
- Brittle nails
- Dry skin
- Dull eyes
- Fainting or dizziness
- Irregular or absence of menstruation
- Bloated or upset stomach
- Low or no cold tolerance
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Poor judgment
- Inability to remember things
- Distorted perception of self
- Denial of the disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior
- Feeling of ineffectiveness in everything
- Lack of initiative
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Difficulty in concentration
- Diminished interest in sex
- Refusal to eat in public
- Tendency to eat only one type of food
- Ritual cutting of food into tiny pieces
- Deep studies about diet and obsession with calorie intake
- Compulsive exercising
- Denial of hunger
- Preoccupation with weight control and body size
- Constant dieting
- Lack of emotion.
Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening psychological disorder that can give rise to some hazardous physical consequences. About 20% of anorexics die of starvation and malnutrition. Self-starvation in anorexia can lead to:
- Liver damage
- Heart damage
- Kidney damage
- Damage to the immune system
- Changes in the personality
If there is an electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, fainting or psychiatric problems due to anorexia, then you immediately need to seek appropriate medical treatment. The treatment focuses on normal and gradual weight gain. A combination of various therapies such as nutritional therapy, counseling, cognitive therapy, family therapy and group therapy is used to treat this disorder.
Excessive starvation can cause permanent health damage and even death. So if you know someone who exhibits the symptoms mentioned above, approach them and convince them to seek medical attention immediately.