Anorexia nervosa is the deadliest of all mental health disorders. There are 2 types of anorexia: 1) the restrictive type and 2) the purging type.
The Restrictive type will lose weight through strict diets, fasting, and excessive exercise, whereas the Purging type will lose weight through the use of laxatives, diet pills or other diuretics.
WHAT CAUSES ANOREXIA?
Exact causes are difficult to pin point. However, there may be multiple factors involved such as those listed below:
- Over concern over one’s physical appearance
- Family dynamic (i.e. pressure) and attitude towards food
- Signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness and emotional distress
- Perfectionism (fear of failure)
- Poor ability to manage emotions
- Stress e.g. sudden change, loss, death, disappointment, abuse
WHO GETS ANOREXIA?
Anorexia affects both men and women, at any age. However, most commonly affected are young women between the ages of 14 and 25. Between 5 to 20% die from complications.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms will vary, however, the following are common:
- Limits amount of food and drink consumed
- Fear of weight gain
- Focus on thinness
- Distorted body image (constantly feeling fat even if not)
- Significant weight loss beyond what is considered healthy to the person
- Excessive exercising in an attempt to burn calories
- Loss of menstruation
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Teeth decay
- And many more
THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF ANOREXIA
Physical and psychological side effects over time can include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Brittle bones
- Kidney problems
- Extreme fatigue
- Chemical changes in the brain affecting thoughts
- Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts
- Loss of libido
- And many more effects that can lead to infertility in women, osteoporosis, epilepsy, cancer, diabetes and death
HOW DOES ANOREXIA AFFECT FAMILY LIFE?
The secret life of the anorexic is often very difficult for families to understand which can lead to frequent arguments, especially during meal times.
HOW IS ANOREXIA TREATED?
Anorexia needs specialist help to treat both the psychological causes and its physical side effects. This is a process that can sometimes take many years to resolve depending on the severity of the condition. A multidisciplinary team composed of a medical doctor, a psychotherapist, a nutritionist amongst other experts will be required. Depending on levels of severity, either outpatient or inpatient treatment maybe advised.
Seeking help can be difficult and filled with a lot of ambivalence. At MEEDA, we are here to help provide support and guide you in the best way possible. You can contact us or request a short talk over our Online HotLine.
WHEN WILL I HAVE TO GO INTO HOSPITAL?
Excessive weight loss for an extended period of time, combined with self induced starvation will affect your ability to think clearly which in turn will lead to a chain reaction of physiological complications. These complications will put you in danger which will eventually require you to go to hospital.
When our Body Mass Index (BMI) is under the threshold of what is considered healthy, we run the risk of having to go to hospital. A healthy BMI for an adult is between 20 and 25. However, if it is less than 17.5 then it is likely you could be anorexic if other physical illnesses have been ruled out.
Your BMI is calculated by taking your weight (in kilos), and then dividing it by your height (in meters) squared (e.g. 50kg / 1.60² = 19.5 BMI). The lower your BMI, the more likely it is that you will need to go into hospital. It is important that you see a professional before jumping to any conclusions.
CAN I RECOVER FROM ANOREXIA?
Even after many years with the illness, recovery is possible with the right professional help.