Anorexia Nervosa is a type of eating disorder characterized by an irrational fear of gaining weight and an obsession to become thin.
This condition is psychological in nature, mainly due to a distorted body image, in which the afflicted individual thinks, feels and believes that he or she is fat, even though this is contrary to the truth. As a reaction to this mode of thinking, the person eats too little or sometimes nothing at all, resulting to severe weight loss that poses a great risk to their overall wellness and health.
What causes Anorexia Nervosa?
Like all other kinds of psychological disorders, anorexia nervosa may be attributed to a constellation of factors that interplay and impact on a person's life experiences. Heredity, society and individual personality types can all contribute to the development of this condition.
A person may be genetically predisposed to develop this kind of eating disorder if they have family members who suffer from it, or other similar eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa. It may also be due to hormonal imbalance or irregularities in the brain's chemical transmitters.
Some examples of societal causes of anorexia nervosa are peer pressure, profession and cultural expectations. In a society that equates thinness with physical attractiveness, a person may become obsessed with losing weight and maintaining a stick-like figure in order to fit in. This is especially true with people who work in industries that put emphasis on slim figures, like modeling and the performing arts.
People with personality traits of being a high achievers, perfectionists and worriers are also likely to succumb to this type of disorder.
What are the signs of Anorexia Nervosa?
Aside from the most telltale sign of rapid and uncharacteristic weight loss, other symptoms that may point to the existence of this eating disorder in an individual are social withdrawal, preoccupation with the dieting, obsession with the idea of being fat, excessive exercise and abnormal eating habits.
An anorexic person would normally make excuses not to eat with family members or other people. This is a way for them to avoid scrutiny from others regarding their unusual food rituals, such as breaking their food into tiny pieces when eating.
What are the health risks of Anorexia Nervosa?
Since anorexic patients are literally starving themselves to achieve their "ideal" body weight, this condition can be highly hazardous. It poses a serious threat to an individual's health, and the effects of long-term deprivation of nourishment can be fatal. Blood pressure, heartbeat and body temperature may become abnormal, as well the menstrual cycle in women. Obviously, body weakness and fatigue is also evident due to undernourishment.
Early detection of the problem is vital for the success of treatment for cases of anorexia nervosa. Since patients would seldom admit that they have a problem and need professional help, the role of family and friends is important in observing the symptoms and extending help to the patient. Once diagnosed, therapy could help the patient gain a healthy body image and establish proper eating habits to regain a normal weight and lifestyle.