Anorexia Nervosa, more commonly referred to as anorexia, is an eating disorder and mental illness characterized with obsession of gaining weight and the refusal to maintain healthy body weight for fear of being fat. People who suffer from anorexia struggle with a distorted sense of self-image. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all the mental illnesses.
Anorexia occurs most commonly in adolescent females and is believed to be hereditary, though many people predisposed to the illness may find themselves triggered by environmental factors such as the thin celebrities or fashion models. There are even "Pro Anorexia" sites or "Thinspiration" which are designed to influence and motivate those with the illness to lose more weight. Many people with jobs that require them to be in the public eye such as dancers, models and actors are at a high risk for the illness. Most anorexics are hungry but will deny themselves food. Once having formed the habit, the starvation and hunger provides a sense of control for the person. Some people suffering from Anorexia will consume as little as 600 calories per day but others may completely starve themselves of all food. Those with Anorexia often have rituals with food such as eating very small bites, hiding food, or only eating alone.
There are many health risks from anorexia, the most serious of them all being death, but other symptoms include:
- Low blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Bone density loss
- Constipation and abdominal pain
Though most people struggling with anorexia go out of their way to hide it or are in denial.
Some warning signs of anorexia can include:
- Rapid or obvious weight loss
- Obsessive exercise
- A soft fine coating of hair on the body
- Dieting even when underweight
- Use of laxatives, diuretics, or diet pills
- Missed periods
- Depression or lethargy
- Swollen joints
- Feeling cold due to loss of body fat and poor circulation
- Abdominal distension
- Dry or yellow skin
- Brittle nails
- Thinning hair
Anorexia can be hard to identify even by a mental health professional as many people will go out of their way to hide the illness. Some dress in baggy clothes, while others mat deny it completely. If the patient is honest to their doctor there are treatment options available. The purpose of anorexia treatment is to restore the person to a healthy weight and also to address coexisting psych issues. Many anorexics suffer from other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
Some people with extreme malnutrition will suffer organ failure and require hospitalization or inpatient rehabilitation to recover. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are recommended in the recovery diet. In addition the patient may receive nutrition counseling or medical nutrition therapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy has also been proven to be effective. Some doctors may prescribe Olanzaphine which helps to raise the Body Mass Index while also reducing obsessive thoughts.
Other forms of treatment include support groups and 12 step programs dedicated to eating disorders. For many anorexia is a life long illness so treatment, working on healthy eating habits and therapy are things necessary for ensuring recovery.