The preoccupation with one’s appearance has taken gargantuan proportions with media hype as well as pencil thin models and celebrities. Young girls today are getting increasingly exposed to cinema, magazines and tv shows showing reed-thin women.
This is not only altering their perception about body weight and appearance but also creating an obsession to be thin to the exclusion of other activities. When such an obsession interferes with your daily life and impairs your physical, social, occupational and other areas of functioning, it becomes a disorder.
Anorexia is a serious, debilitating and life threatening disorder which if not rectified can prove to be fatal.
A lot of young girls are ruining their lives because of this disorder. Anorexia is a condition in which there is an intense fear of weight gain, a distorted perception of one’s body and a complete refusal to eat even the most marginal quantities of food. Most women suffering from this disorder have low self esteem and image issues. They are willing to starve themselves to lose weight. Even after losing enough weight they still don’t feel they are thin enough.
Anorexia becomes apparent when girls develop a marked fear of eating, and meal times can be very stressful. They are completely preoccupied with food and will count each calorie they consume. Thoughts about dieting, looking good, food and weighing yourself every hour are rampant. Girls thus rarely find different ways of occupying themselves and start ignoring their family and friends. Moreover patients are in denial and rarely admit that there is something wrong with them. Fortunately with acceptance comes the ability to get support and change your lifestyle as well as self-destructive thoughts.
Types of Anorexia And Its Characteristics
There are essentially two types of anorexia – Restrictive type in which you severely curtail your dietary intake and the Purging type – where you binge, feel terribly guilty and then take laxatives to vomit out whatever you have eaten. The very essence of the disease is really not about weight loss, diets and food. It is a negative self perception rising out of low self esteem, loneliness, depression and an intense need for recognition.
Anorexia may fulfill deeper, more intrinsic needs that an individual has. So a person who is feeling helpless and a failure in other areas of his life may actually pat himself for being able to starve and look thin. It may also be a sign of escapism. People who cannot handle difficult emotions in their life, find solace in self absorption, a typical trait of anorexia.
Unfortunately for these people the exhilaration that thinness brings them is short lived. Over a period of time continuous dieting and purging takes an immense toll on their health. They start to look weak, emaciated and haggard. Some patients may even need to be hospitalized.
Healthy Weight Loss And Anorexia
People aiming to lose weight healthily, resort to balanced eating along with exercise. They have high self esteem and see weight loss only as a means to look good and feel good and increase their self confidence. They are mature, healthy people who seek solace in friends, family and enterprising activities. People with anorexia make weight loss as the focal point of their lives and live a life of oblivion where they are only concerned with weight loss and looking thin. They therefore severely jeopardize all other aspects of happiness.
Diagnosis of Anorexia
Anorexia at first is difficult to spot as women generally resort to unhealthy eating on the sly. It is common for them to go and throw their food or hide their food in order to not eat. It is only when their health gets affected, that people begin to suspect that something is wrong.
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The most common symptom of anorexia is intense dieting. Women ban or restrict certain food from their diets like essential proteins, fats and carbohydrates. They are obsessed with calories, food proportions, nutrition, ingredients and food labels. They are likely to count calories and also write down exactly how much the have consumed in a day. Serving sizes are accurate.
They will make excuses for not eating, throw food, hide food or pretend to be sick. Ironically anorexics show a fascination for food despite an aversion to eat it. They may watch cookery shows and love cooking for others even if they do not eat it themselves.
All this leads to a rapid and significant weight loss in a very short period of time. Despite this they still feel fat and feel that the weight loss is just not good enough. They may then begin to starve themselves some more. They weigh themselves constantly and are very critical about their own appearance. Some women will also exercise excessively in the gym for hours everyday.
For some women anorexia takes the form of dieting and bingeing when they are not able to resist cravings. They then feel terribly guilty and take laxatives or diuretics to vomit out the food.
Causes of Anorexia
There are several reasons behind anorexia. People who suffer are perfectionists and seem very normal but may feel powerless inside. There may also be a family discord and instances of childhood abuse. They are people pleasers and harshly critical about themselves. Overly critical and controlling parents too may create a negative self image in women. Stressful life events may bring on its onset. More often than not, over exposure to the media and undesirable ideals of ‘thinness’ is the root cause. Genetics and a family history of eating disorders may also predispose women to anorexia.
Effects of Anorexia
Some of the major effects of anorexia is cessation of menstrual cycles, constipation, weight loss, brittle nails, severe anemia, poor memory, headaches, lethargy and general weakness. The skin may become pale, gaunt and lifeless. Fainting and low blood pressure is common.
Treatment of Anorexia
The first step is to admit that you have a problem and feel a need to rectify it. Seek counseling and talk to others about your inner most feelings. Share your fears and inhibitions about gaining weight. Stay away from triggers that set off anorexia like peer pressure and the media. Accept the need to tell yourself to gain weight and start eating healthily. Seek professional help for underlying emotional problems from a qualified psychologist.
Consult a nutritional expert who will see to your diet. A participation of psychiatrists, doctors and dieticians is needed to combat this disorder. Parents too should participate actively in providing emotional support to the woman and help rehabilitating her. The approach is three pronged – changing your perception of food, gaining weight and eating healthily.