Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening disorder characterized by a distorted perception of weight, a fear of gaining weight, and restriction of food. Most people who suffer from anorexia are teenagers, but anorexia can impact people of all ages. 9% of American women will suffer from anorexia in their lifetime. 1 in 5 deaths of those suffering from anorexia are by suicide. Around 40% of people with anorexia are also diagnosed with a mood disorder and around 50% are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Dramatic weight loss
Refusing to eat specific types of food or food groups
Obsession with weight, food, calories
Not getting their period
Depression and suicidality due to body dysmorphia
Having a strong need to feel in control
Cavities and gum pain
Constantly feeling cold
Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or acid reflux
Slow heart rate
Restoration to Healthy Eating Patterns
This process includes returning to a healthy weight through a specialized meal plan and establishment of healthy habits. This can be done with the help of a dietician who specializes in eating disorders. A primary care doctor, psychologist, or family member can be involved in the recovery process.
Specifically CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or enhanced CBT to help with overcoming fears of certain foods, internalized fat phobia, body image issues, and low self-esteem. A therapist can help to identify and reframe unhealthy beliefs about one’s body in order to make recovery easier.
While there are not many medications that are specifically intended for treating eating disorders, medications that are used to treat other mental illnesses can be effective if prescribed by a licensed professional.
Some people who struggle with eating disorders may require more intensive care in the form of hospitalization or residential treatment. During their hospitalization, a patient’s condition is monitored closely in order to ensure their health. As with other eating disorders, a doctor may observe hydration and electrolyte levels, heart, lung, or other organ disturbances, and other health problems. In residential care, the team may even force feed patients or withhold food which can be extremely traumatizing.
STIGMA AROUND ANOREXIA
Misconception vs. Reality
Misconception vs. Reality
“Only underweight people can be anorexic.”
Though the repercussions of anorexia can result in becoming underweight, people of all sizes can suffer from anorexia.
“Anorexia only affects girls.”
About 25% of people who suffer from anorexia are male. Male sufferers are less likely to report their symptoms or be diagnosed with an ED, and therefore more likely to die from anorexia due to social stigmas and misconceptions about EDs.
Anorexia is a complex psychological disorder with a variety of symptoms, treatments, and causes; so the treatment for anorexia is also more complex than simply consuming more food. Those diagnosed with anorexia have a complicated and negative relationship with food that often takes years to recover from.