“Anorexia” is a word heard frequently in casual discussion. For example, someone may refer to a very thin person as “anorexic.”
However, anorexia is not a term to be taken lightly. It is a serious disorder that affects approximately one percent of the population. Most people affected by anorexia are teenagers and young female adults.
Sophomore sociology major Sara Leidner has watched friends experience eating disorders.
“Anorexia is a horrible thing to watch someone go through, because you want them to get help, but first they have to really want to get better,” said Leidner.
The full name for the disease is anorexia nervosa. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center characterizes anorexia nervosa by several signs and symptoms. Symptoms include a refusal to maintain a normal body weight and an intense fear of gaining weight. A distorted body image, such as seeing oneself as obese when he or she is in fact a normal weight or underweight , is another chracteristic.
The Walter Reed Army Medical Center also says that people who have anorexia frequently exhibit other symptoms as well, such as avoiding eating situations and maintaining strict eating patterns.
Anorexic individuals usually express intense interest in weight loss and check their weight frequently.
Although the cause of anorexia is unknown, there are many factors that could lead to the disorder.
According to the website mentalhealth.com, a factor that could lead to anorexia is external conflicts in someone’s life, such as problems with family or friends.
Internal conflicts, such as sexual struggles, can also contribute to the cause of an eating disorder.
Anorexia can be a symptom of a personality disorder or depression as well.
Besides the factors that could cause anorexia, there are also certain things that could increase the risk of anorexia. For example, peer pressure to be thin could be a risk factor for an eating disorder. People who have a history of being overweight or having low self-esteem are also at risk.
Other risk factors include stress and perfectionistic tendencies, as well as an involvement in activities that stress the importance of physical fitness, such as modeling or ballet.
Anorexia can cause serious side effects if left untreated. Some problems that can arise from anorexia are an abnormal heartbeat, anemia, osteoporosis, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, constipation and cardiac arrest.
Anorexia is a potentially fatal disease. The main causes of death in anorexic individuals are either from malnutrition or suicide.
It is important for someone with anorexia to seek treatment, although it is often easier said than done. Many times anorexic individuals do not want to seek treatment because they are afraid of gaining weight.
In many cases, the individuals do not think there is anything wrong with their behavior.
However, many nutritionists suggest that anorexia is preventable if one stays clear of risk factors and focuses on good health. To lose weight, one must do so through a healthy diet combined with exercise and by surrounding oneself with positive messages and images for a stable self-image.