Anorexia is an eating disorder that is typically associated with a dangerously thin body, and a phobia of gaining weight. This can often occur alongside a distorted perception of body size and weight. Those with anorexia are consumed with controlling their perceived weight, leading to dangerous behavior.
The most common way people with anorexia try to prevent weight gain is by dramatically reducing their caloric intake. This bid to control weight can also involve vomiting after eating, misuse of laxatives, dietary supplements, or enemas. Regardless of how they attempt to lose weight, anorexia is characterized by a deep fear of weight gain.
As discussed, the primary sign of anorexia is often extreme weight loss, or not hitting normal developmental thresholds. It can also begin to show with abnormal fatigue, insomnia, fainting, or intolerance to the cold. However, for others, it will show in the weak and frail frames of those affected. This includes thinning hair, yellowish skin, constipation, absence of menstruation, and swelling in the limbs, among many others.
The other vital symptoms of anorexia to keep in mind are the emotional and behavioral signs. As we’ve discussed, the first significant sign for many loved ones is behavioral signs such as severe restriction of food intake or extreme amounts of exercising.
However, the emotional symptoms of anorexia can often become neglected. The primary emotional signs include things like a deep-rooted fear or aversion to eating or constantly making excuses for not eating. This often leads to social withdrawal and irritability about their eating habits.
The exact causes of anorexia are currently unknown to researchers. Like most things, it’s likely a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors that lead to anorexia.
Some people are genetically predisposed to sensitivity or perfectionism, while others develop obsessive-compulsive traits, which can greatly increase the risk of developing anorexia or another eating disorder. This is especially true in western culture, where a ton of value is placed on body size.
The clearest risk factors for anorexia are things out of our control, such as sex and age. For instance, anorexia is more common in women than men, and more common in teens than adults. However, the rates of anorexia among both men and adults, in general, have been on the rise. That said, it’s still very uncommon to develop anorexia after the age of 40.
The other risk factors are things that are not currently well understood, such as genetic factors and diet. Some evidence suggests that many of the symptoms of anorexia are actually symptoms of starvation, which changes the way your brain works.
Anorexia and eating disorders, in general, are relatively common, with some estimates saying around 70 million people worldwide are suffering. Other reports say as many as 9% of American women will suffer from anorexia at some point in their lifetime. Anorexia and other eating disorders are extremely serious, accounting for the highest mortality rate among psychological disorders.
It can be difficult to get treatment for loved ones dealing with anorexia, as many are unwilling to seek help at first. If you are worried you or a loved one may be struggling with anorexia, be sure to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Only they can offer the most useful strategy for moving forward.