understanding anorexia nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa, characterized by intentional and significant weight loss, is an eating disorder which afflicts as many as one in every 100 girls and young women. Most often it strikes girls between 12 and 14. This is the time when the female body undergoes the normal but sometimes dreaded changes of puberty—the increases in fat tissue in the breasts, hips, and thighs. In our culture, rather than celebrating the onset of womanhood, for many girls, puberty symbolizes the beginning of anxiety around weight. For some girls, the start of a diet is an attempt to gain control over this biological process, as well as a way to master the other confusing, conflicting emotions and interpersonal pressures of adolescence.

Dieting for children this age is dangerous. It makes girls eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder! The effects of starvation can hinder an individual’s ability to think clearly and can trigger the rigid, demanding voice of Anorexia. The intense fear of fat and preoccupation with food and weight often mask underlying psychological problems. Certain children are more prone to develop Anorexia: girls who are perfectionists, need to please people, rarely display anger, and who have poor self-esteem are most vulnerable. Being “successful” at losing weight provides these individuals with a sense of power, competence and control. The ability to deny themselves food gives them the feeling, “At least I am good at something,” and helps them to feel strong, special, and superior to people who need food.

The powerful voice of Anorexia brainwashes its sufferers with promises: “If you just get skinny, you’ll be happy, beautiful, popular, and loved.” The truth is, as the sufferer loses more weight, they become depressed, isolated, lonely, angry, and sick. When the sufferer continues to feel miserable, the eating disorder uses this as evidence that they still are not good enough: “You’re such a fat pig! You are a stupid, lazy failure. You can’t even do this right.”

Someone with anorexia may dress in baggy clothes to hide their weight loss because Anorexia tells them, “If others find out what’s happening, they will be jealous and try to make you FAT!” They feed others but deny themselves sustenance. They need to prove to Anorexia that they are good enough, but when they get close to their goal, Anorexia raises the bar.

The longer Anorexia lasts, the more entrenched the distorted belief system becomes. Anorexia is a parasite that, left untreated, will kill its host. 10-20% of sufferers will die of starvation, cardiac arrest, or suicide. Anorexia is the most lethal of all mental illnesses. This is why prevention efforts and early intervention are crucial.


Medical Consequences

  • ABSENCE OR IRREGULARITIES OF PERIOD

  • ANAEMIA

  • Bone mineral loss leading to osteoporosis

  • BRITTLE NAILS

  • CAVITIES, GUM DISEASE AND TOOTH ENAMEL EROSION

  • DEPRESSION

  • DIFFICULTIES GETTING PREGNANT

  • DIZZINESS

  • FATIGUE

  • Irregular heartbeat which can lead to cardiac arrest

  • KIDNEY FAILURE

  • KIDNEY STONES

  • LOW BLOOD PRESSURE

  • Low body temperature

  • Shrunken organs

  • Slowed metabolism and reflexes

  • STOMACH ULCERS

  • SWELLING AND SORENESS OF CHEEKS

  • TEARING AND OR RUPTURING OF THROAT AND ESOPHAGUS

  • YELLOW SKIN