Understanding Anorexia

Although most of the world is worried about the growing numbers of obese and morbidly obese people, other eating disorders also need as much attention from the public. One of the most complex eating disorders is anorexia nervosa (anorexia means lack of appetite and self-starvation), which is caused by a combination of different biological and environmental factors.

Who is at risk?
Both men and women can suffer from anorexia nervosa, and it doesn’t matter whether that person is aspiring to be a fashion model or not. Although studies in Singapore show that for the males, those aged between 45 to 49 years have the most number of cases, it is more fatal among women within the same age group. Interestingly, younger patients who suffer from anorexia nervosa, between 25 to 29 years, have the highest chances of overcoming the disorder than the older patients.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which results in drastic weight loss and changes in the stature and height of a person far below the normal body weight for a specific age. Most of the individuals with this condition suffer from a distorted body image and think they need to restrict their diet, exercise compulsively, and resort to using laxatives after binge eating. What is also interesting is that people who have larger bodies than most anorexia patients can also suffer from the illness, which means that you don’t need to be underweight or stick-thin to be anorexic.

What to look out for?
A person is diagnosed with the illness if he/she meets the following criteria: restrictions in the diet that lead to poor physical development (although those who do not suffer from significant weight loss may be classified as atypical anorexics); has an intense fear of getting fat; and has a distorted image of his/her own body shape and weight and a strong denial of the low body weight.

From these criteria, anorexics can be classified into two types, such as; the restrictive type, who limits food consumption; and the purge or binge type, who feels guilty after a meal and compensates that guilt by vomiting, exercising and using laxatives.

If you know someone with the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, call for help as soon as possible. Watch out for the following symptoms: obsession with the caloric and fat contents of food; chronic dieting; excessive exercising; eating patterns that appear obsessive or ritualistic; fixation on food details; amenorrhea among women; thinning hair or hair loss; depression, lethargy, and isolation; appearance of fine hair on the face and body; and inability to feel cold in the extremities.

How is it treated?
Treatment of anorexia nervosa can be complicated because it will take a team of doctors and therapists to help the person recover. It’s usually divided into three components, which are medical, nutritional, and therapy treatments. Health issues and complications must be treated while the patient undergoes weight restoration through effective meals plans and recover from the eating disorder by recognizing the possible issues that might have caused it. Psychotherapy usually also involves the family of the patient to help in the treatment.

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