is the third most common chronic illness for teenage girls in Australia. A psychosomatic disorder, it is characterized by self-starvation stemming from an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. Extreme weight loss from restricting food intake and excessive exercise is common amongst sufferers of this eating disorder.
Eating disorders are more than just a refusal to eat; they also encompass changes in emotional behaviour and attitudes. Although mostly experienced by adolescent females and young women, eating disorders also occur in males as well.
Anorexia is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder with between 5 and 18 per cent of known anorexia nervosa victims dying of starvation.
As a cause of this self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Therefore the body has to slow down in order to conserve energy which it would otherwise receive from food and liquids. This practice can lead to serious medical problems that include:
- Reduction of bone density resulting in osteoporosis.
- Risk of heart failure.
- Risk of kidney failure as a cause of severe dehydration.
- Fainting and fatigue.
- Hair loss.
- Excessive hair growth all over the body, in an effort to keep the body warm.
No one completely understands the reasoning behind people developing anorexia but it is thought to be associated with depression and low self-esteem.
There are many other psychological factors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder such as feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety, anger or loneliness.
Social pressures can also have a huge impact on Anorexia sufferers especially when we live in a society that constantly glorifies "thinness" and seems obsessed with appearance. This way of thinking can have a detrimental effect on people who feel they can't conform, reflect or compete with the images communicated to us in our everyday lives.So what are some of the warning signs that someone has anorexia?
- Loss of menstrual periods
- Extreme concern with body weight and shape
- Feeling "fat" despite dramatic weight loss
- Fear of weight gain
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories and dieting
- Denial of hunger
- Avoidance of meal times or social gatherings where there is food involved.
- Excessive exercise regime
- Withdrawal from friends and family
People with anorexia and other eating disorders often use their control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming.
We should constantly remind ourselves and others that 'appearance' is not everything; it is just ONE part of who we are. Therefore it is very important to focus on the other aspects of ourselves, like our skills, characteristics and accomplishments. If we heed this shift in attitude, it will help create a world where self-worth is not measured in kilograms or calories.For further information on anorexia and other eating disorders, visit the following sites:
- Annemarie Failla