Anorexia nervosa or anorexia, is an eating disorder which mostly affects teenagers. Children have wrong perception of reality so they suffer from low self esteem. They continuously strive to reduce weight by dieting and exercising. Read on to know more about this.
Anorexia nervosa or anorexia, as we commonly know it, is an eating disorder that is largely prevalent among women aged 15 to 35. The illness essentially entails starving oneself to death, in order to lose weight and consequently build up self-esteem. For some obvious social notions that regard thin as attractive, anorexia afflicts a higher number of girls from age 12 to early teens.
The disease starts innocently enough. The victim wakes up one morning, looks at herself in the mirror, and decides she could do with getting rid of that 'fat'. If she just loses some weight, every thing would be perfect. So she goes on a diet and starts an exercise regime. But it doesn't stop when she's shed those few extra kilos. She continues seeing herself as fat, ignoring the perceptions of regular body weight. When she weighs about 85% of what is considered normal for her age and height, is hyperactive and exercises a lot to continue burning calories, but still cannot get rid of the nagging certainty that she is 'fat and ugly', you know she has a problem.
Anorexia is usually accompanied by hyperactivity, hypothermia, and amenorrhea.
This is when anorexics exercise frantically to lose whatever little weight they are left with.
This results when the fat cells, which are the body's natural insulation, become non-existent and the victim starts feeling cold all the time. As a result, the body develops a light coating of fur on the body, to retain whatever little body warmth it can.
Amenorrhea sets in when a woman misses at least three menstrual cycles. Loss of monthly menstrual periods is typical in anorexic women while men with anorexia often become.
Nipping it in the bud
Sadly anorexia is not usually 'nipped in the bud', as it is not recognised until it spirals out of control. Parents of anorexics don't realise initially what their child is going through, as a desire to lose weight by diet and exercise is normal enough. Almost every one goes through a weight-losing spree at some point in life, but with anorexics, it becomes an obsession. Their distorted perception of reality makes them see themselves as fat, even when they are rake thin. They look at themselves in the mirror and they don't see their protruding rib cages - they see the skin on it - and identify it as fat. The fear of being seen as fat continues even when the person is near death from starvation. They won't eat even when suffering from acute hunger pangs. Further, anorexics often wear loose, baggy clothes to hide their 'fat' body, so one doesn't immediately realise how much weight the child has lost.
Change in attitude towards anorexics
The general perception that anorexics are vain and obsessed with their looks needs to be changed, and anorexia needs to be recognised as a serious and potentially fatal disease that requires treatment. Anorexics are usually controlled people who are perfectionists but have low self-esteem. Their body weight, shape and size is directly related to how good they feel about themselves. This is usually because of troubled family situations, perhaps childhood abuse or parents telling their child that he or she should lose weight, children at school teasing one because of some extra weight, or just people who are more sensitive and tend to have trouble coping with stress. If a child suffers from anorexia, family members should not let the eating disorder become a hidden, secret problem. Instead, they should talk openly and with obvious concern to the young woman about the situation as early as possible.
Group therapy seems to be one of the more effective methods of treatment as women in the same situation get together to speak about their experiences and share their fears.
If anorexia has reached the extent that the person's life is in any danger because of starvation, immediate hospitalisation should be considered even if the victims are dead against it (which they are if they fail to recognise that they have a problem).
All doctors who treat an individual suffering from anorexia need to be co-operative and supportive of the patient's efforts throughout treatment. It may not be easy to gain the victims' co-operation, especially if they have been brought to treatment against their will. While this can be one of the most difficult aspects of treatment with this individual, building a trusting and supportive relationship with him or her is likely the most important part of treatment.