What Is Anorexia?
Anorexia (also called anorexia nervosa), is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of being overweight and a distorted perception of one’s body.
Common Symptoms are starvation/inordinate exercise, in the obsessive pursuit to attain a below healthy body weight.
Physical Effects of Anorexia
Anorexia can lead to a variety of dangerous effects, as the human body attempts to survive with its insufficient nutrients and calories.
Sensible Effects Include:
Gastrointestinal Ailments (such as constipation, acid reflux, stomach cramps, etc)
Low Heart Rates
Development of Seizures
Swelling of the Hands/Feet
Poor Immune Function
Brittle NailsDry/Brittle Hair
Increased Facial Hair
Poor Dental HygieneNumbness
Loss of Blood Pressure
Low Body Temperature (possibly even hypothermia)
Poor Wound Healing
Anorexia Statistics and Demographics
“Over 70% of those who suffer with eating disorders will not seek treatment due to stigma.” – National Eating Disorders Association
Anorexia is a severe mental illness with a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness. 60% of mortalities related to anorexia are sudden cardiac arrest, organ failure, or suicide. 20% of anorexia mortalities are due to suicide. Anorexia-nervosa is severely dangerous and recognizing it, as early as possible, is vital.
Genetics Make Up 50-80% of the Risk for Anorexia
If your family has a history of anorexia-nervosa, it is likely to occur with-in another family member.
Anorexia Often Starts During Adolescents
Anorexia can start at any age but most often it starts around the teenage years to young adulthood. With that said, anorexia is not unrare in kids and pre-teens. According to ANAD statistics
- 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
- 81% of 10-year-old children are afraid of being fat.
- 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets.
- 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives.
Co-Morbidity of Anorexia
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health collected information on lifetime anorexia petients. It was found that 47.9% of the patients had an anxiety disorder, 42.1% had a Mood Disorder, 30.8% had an impulse control disorder, 27.0% had a substance disorder, 56.2% had a disorder. Anorexia may often be a co-morbid eating disorder working in tandem with a core mental health disorder.
Visible Signs for Anorexia
Dramatic weight loss
Dresses in layers to hide weight loss or stay warm
Is preoccupied with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
Refuses to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole food categories
Makes frequent comments about feeling overweight
Complains of constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, lethargy, and/or excess energy
Denies feeling hungry
Loss or thinning of hair
Engages in food rituals (e.g., eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate, cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, hiding food, or vomiting after eating)
Cooks meals for others without eating
Development of soft hair on face and body (lanugo)
Consistently makes excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
Maintains an excessive, rigid exercise regimen – despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
Withdraws from usual friends and activities and becomes more isolated, withdrawn, and secretive
Seems concerned about eating in public
Limits their social interaction
Resists or is unable to maintain a bodyweight appropriate for their age, height, and build
Has intense fear of weight gain or being “fat,” even though underweight
Has warped perception of body weight or shape
Postpuberty female loses menstrual period
Has a strong need for control
Shows inflexible thinking
Has overly restrained initiative and emotional expression
Dry skin, hair, and nails
Poor dental hygiene
Call To Action
How Can We Help Those With Anorexia?
Recognize if a person may have Anorexia using the criteria above. Not all the criteria may be met, that doesn’t rule out a person suffering from anorexia-nervosa. If the criteria above is too much to remember, use the 3 step criteria to recognize eating disorders from The National Eating Disorders Association. Please note the NEDA criteria is not absolute. If a person doesn’t meet any of the steps, than he or she may still have an eating disorder.
- Restriction of energy intake relative to requirements leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
Anorexia is most often a coping mechanism for powerful, painful emotional issues. You cannot force anorexia out of a person. Offering support, comfort, and understanding can be a giant help.
#3 Encourage Help
Finally and most importantly encourage help. anorexia-nervous is a mental health disorder and in order to treat it, the sufferer should find professional, medical mental health help.
Organizations Dedicated to Helping
The National Eating Disorders Associations (NEDA)
NEDA is “the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders”.
NEDA offers screenings for eating disorders
NEDA offers resources to find treatments for eating disorders
NEDA offers help hotlines
The text and call hotline – (800) 931-2237
- “For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.” – https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline
- Project Heal offers help to those who cannot attain access to treatments for their eating disorders.
- Project Heal has, “the largest network of facilities and providers at every level of care – including inpatient, residential, partial-hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment centers as well as eating disorder specialized therapists, dietitians, and coaches.”
- Project Heal offers free treatments to individuals who are uninsured or underinsured
- Project Heal offers assistance for navigating insurance and advocation for insurance to cover an individual’s eating disorder.
- Project Heal offers cash assistance for treatments and insurance
- ANAD is a nonprofit dedicated to sufferers of eating disorders
- ANAD offers free peer support services
- ANAD offers support mentors
- ANAD offers support groups
- ANAD offers a treatment directory to various mental health proffesionals
- ANAD offers an eating disorder help hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL)
National Institute of Mental Health
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is an institute of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that focuses on or biomedical and health-related research.
- The NIMH website offers amble, well researched, data and statistics for mental illnesses and disorders
- What Could Use More Elaboration?
- What Else Would Like to Know About Anorexia-Nervosa?
Beat. “Tips for Supporting Somebody with an Eating Disorder.” Beat Eating Disorders, Beat Eating Disorders, www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/supporting-someone/supporting-somebody.
Contributor. “Anorexia Facts & Statistics.” Eating Recovery Center, www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/conditions/anorexia/facts-statistics.
Contributor. “How to Help a Loved One.” National Eating Disorders Association, NEDA, 31 July 2018, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/help/caregivers.
Contributor. “The Prevalence of Eating Disorders in America.” Behavioral Nutrition, 20 Sept. 2018, behavioralnutrition.org/the-prevalence-of-eating-disorders-in-america/.
Gerhardt, Linda. “Anorexia Statistics and Studies.” Center For Discovery, Center for Discovery, 7 Feb. 2020, centerfordiscovery.com/blog/anorexia-statistics-and-studies/.