Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterised by severe weight loss and altered self image. Anorexia most commonly affects teenage girls and young women, but the incidence in young men is rising. In the male population the numbers of sufferers seems to be increasing. Twenty years ago it was thought that for every 15 women with anorexia there was one man. Today researchers find that to every four females with anorexia, there is one male.
In the early stages, sufferers may be overactive and may exercise excessively. Most often anorexics are obsessed with food and may cook complicated meals for others. However, they will avoid eating the prepared meal themselves and are often very reluctant to eat socially.
Most sufferers come from respectable homes, and many do not seek professional help with their problems until it becomes life threatening. However, anorexia can affect anyone regardless of social class, age, race, gender. Individuals suffering with anorexia tend to be perfectionists, having unrealistic expectations of themselves and others.
Parents are often desperate to cope with the situation and their strong emotions may range from fear to disbelief and despair. Parents are often upset by the emaciated appearance of the son or daughter. This situation can become more difficult when the child becomes an adult, as the parents lose their legal right to influence their child’s behaviour.
In Britain the incidence of anorexia in young women has been estimated to range between 1 and 5%, the same as the USA. Paradoxically anorexia means “without appetite”.
Anorexia overview: (some common symptoms)
- Incorrect body perception
- Intense fear of becoming fat
- Constipation-slow gut motility (laxative drug use)
- Rough dry scaly skin
- Hands swell
- Lanugo-facial hair
- Hair loss or thinning
- Rigid dieting
- Compulsive exercising
- Panic with the smallest increase in weight
- Rigid lifestyle
- Low white blood cell count
- Muscle wasting
- Brain chemistry alters to euphoria-disorientation
- Depression and suicide
- Thyroid function decreases
- Arrhythmias and heart failure
- Wears large or baggy clothes to hide thin body
- Inability to obtain pleasure-sex
- Organ deterioration
- Bradycardia (abnormally slow heart rate)
- Imbalance of sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbs
- Risk of osteoporosis
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