Anorexia Nervosa

Ashleigh Brushaber

What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is a psychiatric disorder of being unrealistically thin, fear of gaining weight, and self-starvation. About 1% of Americans are anorectic. Females with anorexia outnumber males 10:1. It is more commonly diagnosed to homosexual men than heterosexuals. Anorexia is characterized as a "rich white girl" disorder, however, in the 2000's, the amount of black and Hispanics diagnosed with this disorder has increased. People with Anorexia often show signs of depression and compulsive behavior. individuals with this disorder are on the quest to lose weight, and no matter how much they lose, how thin they become, and how much their health is compromised, they still want to lose more weight.

Signs and Symtoms

Competitive athletes such as Jockeys, wrestlers, figure skaters, cross-country runners, and gymnasts have a higher risk of developing anorexia, sports where your weight is tied to performance. Also, models, actors, cheerleaders, and dancers who are judged mainly on their appearance. Anorexia does not have a single cause, but appears to result from interaction of cultural and biological factors. Anorexic behavior has physical and psychological consequences, like:


  • Excessive weight loss and loss of muscle
  • Stunted growth and delayed sexual maturation (preteens)
  • Gastrointestinal complications (Liver damage, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, stomach pain)
  • Cardiovascular complications (Irregular heartbeat, low pulse rate, cardiac arrest)
  • Skeletal System complications (Loss of bone mass, increased risk of fractures, teeth eroded by stomach acid from repeated vomiting (purge-type)
  • Urinary System complications (Kidney damage or failure, urinary tract infections, and incontinence)
  • Reproductive System complications for women (Irregular menstrual periods or none at all, amenorrhea, infertility)
  • Reproductive System complications for men (Loss of sex drive, infertility)
  • Fatigue, Irritation, Headaches, Impaired Judgment and Thinking
  • Low blood sugar
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Weakened immune system, Swollen glands, Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Laguna (fine hair on shoulders, back arms, and face) Head hair loss, blotchy, dry skin
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Coma
  • Increased risk of self-mutilation
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Death

Treatment

After being diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, the individual may be referred to a psychiatrist for a mental status evaluation. Treatment depends on the degree to which anorexic behavior has resulted in physical damage and whether the person is a danger to him or herself. Patients are often uncooperative and resist treatment, saying that the doctor only wants to "make them get fat". Any patient that has a weight of 40% or more below normal, or has lost more than 30 pounds in 3 months, having severely disturbed metabolism, severe purging and binging, showing signs of psychosis, severely depressed or risk of suicide, or family is in crisis are highly recommended for hospitalization. Patients are hospitalized as if they are a high suicide risk, have severe clinical depression, or exhibit signs of an altered mental state. They may also need to be hospitalized to interrupt weight loss, stop the cycle of vomiting, exercising and/or laxative abuse, treat substance disorders, or for an additional medical evaluation. Relapses are common and expected. Some anorectics receive outpatient treatment, providing medical supervision, self-help strategies, nutrition counseling, and therapy after the patient has reached some weight goals and shows stability. A dietitian is an essential part of the help needed to successfully treat anorexia. The concern is to get the patient medically stable by increasing calorie intake and balancing electrolytes. After, nutritional therapy is necessary support for the long process of recovery and stable weight gain, involving nutrition education, meal planning, helping the anorectic develop a healthy relationship with food, and nutrition monitoring. Also, medications are used to help treat psychiatric problems such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Prognosis

Anorexia Nervosa is difficult to treat successfully. Medical stabilization, nutrition therapy, continuous medical monitoring, and substantial psychiatric treatment give an individual the best chance for recovery. It is estimated that between 20% and 30% of people going through treatment, drop out or give up too soon and end up having major relapses. Treating anorexia is often a long, slow, and frustrating process that can cost thousands of dollars. Most people with anorexia do not want to recover. About half the people treated for this disorder recover completely and are able to maintain a normal weight with some difficulty. Between 6% and 20% of anorectics die. About 20% remain dangerously underweight, and the rest remain thin. Long-term heart complications are also common among anorectics.

Personal Statement

Anorexia Nervosa is a dangerous disorder. I believe that the risk for becoming an anorectic has increased majorly over the past few years. Society is so caught up in being "perfect". People get degraded on for the way their body is shaped. It's okay to be "curvy" but not fat. You have to be lazy and love food, but not be "fat". Your not popular or considered pretty if you're a little thicker. So many beautiful girls go unnoticed because they aren't "popular". I believe the dress code is also a big factor into girls thinking they are fat. Girls and guys need to feel comfortable in their own skin, and not let what other people think affect the way that they present themselves. If you love food, then go ahead and eat it! Be who you are, and feel confident! Anorexia is so dangerous and people need to be aware of the health problems that follow being anorectic. There are people that have died from this disorder and it's nothing to joke about. I have heard people jokingly say that they wish they were anorexic for a week, so they could lose weight. That is not a joke and should not be said! Anorexia is a very fatal disorder and can cause a lot of issues. Don't ever wish you were anorexic, to lose weight. There are other safe ways to lose weight, ways that won't cause you to jeopardize your life. Be who you are, and embrace it! Because if you don't stand out now, you will regret it later in life. There is only one version of yourself, and you are worth it!