Anorexia nervosa is a mental health disorder that leads to an intense fear of becoming obese or gaining weight. People with this condition may starve themselves or exercise excessively to maintain a low body weight. Anorexia nervosa is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition causing people to have a distorted view of their body weight and shape. Individuals may see themselves as overweight even when they are underweight. Anorexia nervosa is more common in girls and women but can also affect boys and men.
What is anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is a mental health disorder characterised by people starving themselves and losing excessive weight. People with anorexia nervosa may fear gaining weight or becoming fat, even when already thin. These individuals may diet and work out excessively, to the point of harming their health. Anorexia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition.
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa
The common symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- Significant weight loss
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
- Distorted body image (perceiving oneself as fat even when thin)
- Skipping meals or eating tiny portions
- Refusing to eat certain foods, such as those high in fat or calories
- Persistent dieting despite being thin
- Extreme thinness (body mass index [BMI] below 17.5)
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Refusal to attend social events due to an irrational fear of being judged for their body type.
- Isolation and social withdrawal.
Causes of anorexia nervosa
There are many potential causes of anorexia nervosa and the condition likely results from a combination of factors. Some of the most commonly cited reasons include:
- A desire to be thin or lose weight may be due to cultural pressure to be light and a belief that thinner equals healthier. The idea that more delicate equals more beneficial is untrue. It is a well-documented fact that humans of different body types have always existed and gone on to live fulfilling and long lives. Although taking care of one’s health is essential, anorexia nervosa is an extreme example of how things can go wrong when we have an unnatural obsession with looking “thin”.
- A need for control: Anorexia nervosa can often be a way for people to feel like they have some control over their lives when other areas feel chaotic. External factors such as an unfruitful career, unfulfilling relationships, and lousy family relationships can develop anorexia nervosa.
- Perfectionism: People with anorexia nervosa may strive for perfection in all areas of their lives and see weight loss as another way to achieve this. While aiming for perfection is good most of the time, overdoing it has significant adverse effects. It is essential to realise and accept that humans do not have control over every aspect of our life and that not everything can always be perfect.
- Low self-esteem: People with anorexia nervosa may have negative feelings about themselves and their bodies, leading them to believe that losing weight will make them more acceptable. They tend to feel generally that society will not realise their worth unless they meet the conventional norms of how a person is supposed to look, which, according to those suffering from anorexia nervosa, is thin.
Effects of anorexia nervosa
The effects of anorexia nervosa can be far-reaching. If you or someone in your family is suffering from this condition, it is essential to be aware of the impact so that you can try and control them.
A distorted and irrational view of their bodies is one of the significant symptoms experienced by people with anorexia nervosa. They constantly categorise themselves as obese even though they are thin, and this self-image leads them to diet and exercise obsessively. If not controlled or treated, this condition can become life-threatening.
The effects of anorexia nervosa can be extremely harmful to the body. People with anorexia nervosa can develop serious health problems, including heart issues, loss of bone density and kidney failure. Anorexia nervosa can also lead to death due to malnutrition or burnout.
Treatment of anorexia nervosa
Treating anorexia nervosa can be complex as the individual may not want to gain weight. However, it is essential to seek professional help if you or someone you know displays signs of anorexia nervosa. There are a variety of treatments available for anorexia nervosa.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy can help the individual learn healthy coping mechanisms and change negative thoughts and behaviours.
- Family therapy can help family members understand and support individuals with anorexia nervosa.
A registered dietitian can help the individual develop a healthy eating plan and overcome any disordered eating behaviours.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help treat comorbid conditions in individuals with anorexia nervosa. People with this condition tend to suffer from anxiety and depression, and mental health specialists may prescribe antidepressants to reduce the severity of these symptoms.
Tips for living with anorexia nervosa
While there is no fixed approach to living with anorexia nervosa, effective treatments can help individuals recover from this disorder. Treatment typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counselling and medications. With treatment, most people with anorexia nervosa can recover from the disease and regain healthy body weight. If you or someone in your family is suffering from this condition, the most important thing you can do is to have sympathy or empathy. Realising the power of love and emotional support in combating this condition is essential.
Anorexia nervosa is a mental health condition that can devastate a person’s health. If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, it’s essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. With treatment, many people with anorexia can recover and live healthy lives.
You can rely on United We Care to provide the best cognitive behavioural therapy sessions to those suffering from anorexia nervosa. We employ the best psychologists and life coaches who care about mental health and have dedicated their lives to this cause. Contact us today to book a consultation.