Love the body you're in.
What is anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa commonly referred to as anorexia is one of several eating disorders. Anorexia is a serious psychiatric disorder that affects both men and women, but it seems to affect women more so then men. In fact “about 1% of Americans are anorectic and female anorectics outnumber males 10:1” (Anorexia Nervosa, 2013). Individuals with anorexia have an unrealistic fear of being overweight and they tend to believe that they overweight even when their condition has caused them to become emaciated. Women with anorexia who have suffered extreme weight loss typically stop menstruating while men may become impotent (Bressert, 2014).
Individuals with anorexia seem to have an obsession with tracking their calories, limiting their food intake and utilizing extreme exercise measures more than necessary to maintain good health. Some individuals will go days without eating anything which is referred to as restricting type of anorexia nervosa while some may consume large amounts of foods then immediately vomit or use laxatives, diuretics to get rid of food, and this is referred to as binge/purge type of anorexia Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Anorexia is a serious disorder and if left untreated can lead to other serious health issues like hypotension, heart failure, muscle loss, dehydration, excessive fatigue, hair loss, osteoporosis or even death. Sometimes an individual’s condition can progressively get worse that they must be hospitalized to prevent starvation (Bressert, 2014).
So if you or anyone you know may be developing or has developed anorexia please read the following information carefully.
Possible causes of anorexia.
The exact causes of anorexia are unclear however known contributing risk factors include genetics, biological, psychological and socio-cultural factors. Twin studies suggest that some individuals may be predisposed to developing anorexia and if a close relative has the disorder then they are likely to develop it as well. There is also some evidence that suggests that a chemical imbalance in the brain can cause the disorder as well. It is thought that this may be partly related to the bodily systems that regulate appetite, hunger, satiety, initiation of eating, and cessation of eating (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, pg. 350. para. 4).
Psychological causes have been linked to certain personality traits that have been identified and may contribute to the disorder and they include depression, low self-esteem, perfectionism, avoidant personality, narcissism, and being emotionally inhibited (Bressert, 2014). Anorectics are likely to develop the disorder as a result of peer and social pressures. Many people who develop anorexia place a great deal of their self-worth on being thin and we live in a society that equates beauty with being thin and the media does very little to make them feel otherwise. People today are constantly bombarded by images of what many would call the perfect body and this causes many to develop a negative image of their own bodies instead of embracing and loving the body they are in.
Common myths and perceptions about anorexia.
Many people know very little about anorexia and their beliefs and misconceptions about the disorder can be quite discouraging to some. Therefore it is important that we debunk some of the most common myths associated with the disorder so that people can gain a better understanding of this very serious eating disorder.
Myth: Anorexia is a rich white girl’s disease.
Truth: Although more white girls from middle and upper class families are affected by
the disorder, in the 2000’s, statistics indicates that the number of blacks and Hispanics with the disorder has increased (Anorexia Nervosa, 2013).
Myth: You can always tell someone has anorexia by the way they look.
Truth: Some people with anorexia may be underweight but not all individuals with anorexia look emaciated.
Myth: Anorexia is not a serious medical condition.
Truth: Anorexia is a very serious mental and health issue that can lead to other serious health problems including death.
Myth: People with anorexia do not eat because they want attention.
Truth: Many individuals with anorexia try to hide their condition and some do not believe that they even have a problem.
Myth: It is normal for people to diet and exercise.
Truth: There is nothing wrong with diet and exercise to maintain good health, but when a person becomes obsessed with diet and exercise it can develop into an eating disorder (National Eating Disorders Collaboration, 2015).
Treating individuals with anorexia can be challenging because not eating is not their only problem it is also important to “address underlying emotional and health issues, issues relating to childhood experiences, the person’s self-perception and self-image” (Grohol, 2015, para. 1). Although there are several treatment options treatment typically begins with the person seeing an eating disorder therapist who will address any physical problems and work to help the individual understand what has happened to them as a result of their disorder (Grohl, 2015).
Psychotherapy is one of the most common treatment options for people who suffer from anorexia. Psychotherapists not only address eating problems but they also focus on addressing emotional and cognitive issues associated with the disorder (Grohl, 2015).
Cognitive Behavior Therapy or (CBT) is another option available to treat anorectics and cognitive therapist work to identify thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to the disorder. These specialists focus on helping the individual to change negative thoughts and behaviors by utilizing goal setting techniques and reward systems (Grohl, 2015).
Another form of treatment is family therapy which helps anorectics to see and understand how dysfunctional behaviors affect the person and their families. Family sessions are important because the therapist gets to see firsthand how the individual and their families interact with each other as a result of the disorder (Grohl, 2015).
Evidence has showed that each treatment option can be helpful in treating the disorder, but nothing will work if the individual with the problem doesn’t want to work. Anorexia is an illness that not only affects the individual it also affects those around them that’s why it is so important if you or anyone you know think they may have anorexia to seek treatment.
Factors you should consider when looking for the perfect therapist to treat you.
When it comes to seeking help for an eating disorder it may be confusing to decide just where to start. Given the fact anorexia is a complex disorder with multiple facets that can contribute to the disorder when seeking professional help it is important to seek out individuals who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders as these individual will have the education specific to the field and may have a better understanding of the disease as a whole then a general psychiatrist or therapist. Individuals who specialize in eating disorders include eating disorder therapists, registered dietitians and psychiatrists and physicians who specialize in treating options. You may also want to seek individuals who have special accreditation like a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker LCSW. Whenever a person decides to seek treatment for any type of illness they should always seek treatment from individuals who specialize in the field.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Anorexia. (2016) [Photograph]. Retrieved from careergirlnetwork. com
Anorexia Nervosa. Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, 3rd ed., Detroit: Gale, 2013, pp. 215-220. Retrieved February 14, 2016 from Gale Cengage Learning.
Bressert, S. (2014). Anorexia (Anorexia Nervosa) Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 11, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/anorexia-anorexia-nervosa-symptoms/
Grohol, J. (2015). Treatment for Anorexia. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 15, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/treatment-for-anorexia/