Anorexia



Anorexia 2312
Photo by: Piotr Marcinski

Anorexia (an-o-REK-see-a) is an eating disorder * involving excessive dieting, preoccupation with food, distorted body image, fear of getting fat, and rapid, significant weight loss. The disorder primarily affects young women.

KEYWORDS

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Eaflng disorders

Food and nuftilon

Weight loss

Wendy has been taking ballet since she was 5. For as long as she can remember, her dream has been to dance professionally after she graduates from high school. This spring, the young dancer's company will perform the ballet Swan Lake, and Wendy hopes to be chosen for the lead part.

But since she turned 13 last summer, Wendy has noticed that her figure has started to round out. Constantly in front of the mirror in the dance studio, Wendy cannot help seeing every new curve of her body, and she feels self-conscious about how her growing breasts look in her skintight dancewear. She is worried about gaining weight. What if she becomes too heavy for her dance partner to lift? With try-outs for the spring ballet coming up soon, Wendy fears a tinier dancer will be chosen for the lead instead of her. Lately, she has been wishing for the body she had at 11: tiny and light, like the "perfect" ballerina she dreams of being.

* eating disorder is a condition in which a person's eating behaviors and food habits are so unbalanced that they cause physical and emotional problems.

For the past month, Wendy has been on a crash diet, keeping a strict record of everything she eats. She weighs herself morning and night. When there is time, she jogs after dance class. She is relieved to have lost some weight and wants to keep going. She has been allowing herself only the tiniest portions of food and has started to skip lunch altogether. Pleased with her weight loss so far, she decides to cut back to just a small salad for dinner and maybe just a yogurt for breakfast.

An anorexic person has a distorted perception of what her body actually looks like. She may lose a little weight from a normal diet, gain positive attention from people around her, and then become obsessed with losing more and more weight. But no matter how thin she gets, she still sees her body as unacceptable and unattractive. Photo Researchers, Inc.
An anorexic person has a distorted perception of what her body actually looks like. She may lose a little weight from a normal diet, gain positive attention from people around her, and then become obsessed with losing more and more weight. But no matter how thin she gets, she still sees her body as unacceptable and unattractive.
Photo Researchers, Inc.

Fear of Fat

No one sets out to have anorexia. It takes hold siowiy and might start with a simple desire to lose a few pounds. However, in fully developed cases, people with anorexia are malnourished, often depressed, obsessed with food or exercise, and still are convinced that they are fat.

People with anorexia refuse to eat enough food to maintain normal healthy body weight. Because they fear getting fat, people with anorexia use extreme dieting to lose a lot of weight rapidly. They also may exercise excessively to burn off calories. People with anorexia lose at least 15 to 20 percent of their normal body weight. For example, a girl who starts out at 130 pounds might drop to 100 pounds. Anorexia involves a distorted awareness of the body. People with this condition become preoccupied with thinness and may continue to believe that they are fat even though others around them may see them as unnaturally thin. Over time, the weight that people with anorexia want so desperately to control can become frighteningly out of control for them.

Anorexia is much more common among girls (90 to 95 percent of cases), but boys can have it too. At least 1 in 100 young women in the United States have anorexia, and the disorder usually begins during adolescence. Girls who participate in activities that value thinness, such as dancing, gymnastics, or figure skating, are at higher risk than others for developing anorexia.

What Causes Anorexia?

No single factor causes anorexia. Emotional problems, family difficulties, social pressure, and biological variability all play a role. Contemporary society's glamorization of thinness influences many girls to diet excessively. Once started, some extreme dieting practices can be hard to stop. Girls who have a high need for perfection and control may see dieting as a way to be the prettiest, thinnest, and most perfect of their peers, or to live up their parents' expectations for perfection, or to look as perfect as models or stars they admire. Girls with anorexia tend to come from loving, highly controlled families. A girl who feels that she does not have enough independence may use control of eating as a way to assert herself. In other cases, anorexia may develop because of pressure to be extra-thin when certain sports or activities demand it.

* period , or menstruation (menstroo-AY-shun), refers to the monthly flow, or discharge, of the blood-enriched lining of the uterus that normally occurs in women who are physically mature enough to bear children. Most girls have their first period between the ages of 9 and 16. Because it usually occurs at four-week intervals, it is often called the "monthly period."

Athletes and Anorexia

Girs and young women involved in sports that place a high value on thinness are three times more likely than others to develop anorexia or bulimia (bu-LEE-me-a; binge eating followed by vomiting or other methods of emptying the stomach). A 1992 study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine estimated that as many as 62 percent of females involved in sports like gymnastics and figure skating struggled with eating disorders. Many well-known athletes have spoken out about their battles with eating disorders, including gymnasts and Olympic gold medal winners Nadia Comaneci and Kathy Rigby. Christy Henrich, who in 1989 was ranked the #2 gymnast in the United States, died from complications of anorexia in 1994 at the age of 22. The pressure to be thin does not appear to be easing up. The average gymnast in 1976 was 5′3″ tall and weighed 105 pounds; the average gymnast in 1992 was 4′9″ tall and weighed 88 pounds.

What Can Happen When Someone Has Anorexia?

Anorexia can cause a number of serious medical problems, such as disturbed heart rhythms and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can harm vital organs. With anorexia, the body is literally starving. Bone and muscle begin to waste away. Blood pressure and body temperature drop because the body cannot maintain them properly. Hair, nails, and skin become dry and brittle. Girls with anorexia often stop getting their periods * , and overall body growth and development can begin to slow down. Without treatment, anorexia can cause irreversible damage to the body. It can lead to heart failure * and sometimes death. In the United States, about 1,000 young women die each year from complications of anorexia.

What Can Be Done About Anorexia?

There is help for people with anorexia, but it sometimes takes others to convince people with this problem that they need help. Family members or friends may ask about the weight loss. A girl with anorexia may be ashamed or self-conscious and may say she does not have a problem. Many girls with anorexia resist getting help because they do not want to gain weight. Seeking help sooner, rather than later, can be life-saving, but the distorted body image that is part of anorexia can make it hard for people with the condition to realize how dangerously thin they are.

Treatment for anorexia typically includes several parts and a few different health professionals. Treatment may begin with a medical visit to evaluate nutritional status and overall health. The doctor may ask about weight loss, order blood tests, and ask about the patient's eating habits and feelings about her body. Nutritional counseling helps with planning and following a healthy diet. Individual psychotherapy allows the person to talk about feelings and problems that led up to the anorexia, come up with new solutions, and work on body image. Group therapy brings together people with similar concerns to share their experiences and receive support. Medications are sometimes used to reduce anxiety * and depression * . If a person with anorexia is in a severe health crisis, she may have to be hospitalized to stabilize her medical condition and become better nourished before other aspects of treatment can begin.

* heart failure is a medical term used to describe a condition in which a damaged heart can-not pump enough blood to meet the oxygen and nutrient demands of the body. People with heart failure may find it hard to exercise due to the in-sufficient blood flow, but many people live a long time with heart failure.

* anxiety can be experienced as a troubled feeling, a sense of dread, fear of the future, or distress over a possible threat to a person's physical or mental well-being.

* depression (de-PRESH-un) is a mental state characterized by feelings of sadness, despair, and discouragement.

Resources

Books

Berg, Frances M. Afraid to Eat: Children and Teens in Weight Crisis. Hettinger, ND: Healthy Weight Journal, 1997.

Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

Levenkron, Steven. Anatomy of Anorexia. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2001.

Organizations

American Anorexia Bulimia Association, Inc., 165 West 46th Street, Suite 1108, New York, NY 10036.
Telephone 212-575-6200
http://aabainc.org

Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc. (EDAP), 603 Stewart Street, Suite 803, Seattle, WA 98101.
Telephone: (800) 931-2237 for toll-free information and referral hotline http://www.edap.org

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), P.O. Box 7, Highland Park, IL 60035.
Telephone 807-831-3438
http://anad.org

TeensHealth.org , a website sponsored by the Nemours Foundation and the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, DE, contains information about anorexia and other eating disorders.
http://www.teenshealth.org

See also
Binge Eating Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body Image
Bulimia
Eating Disorders
Peer Pressure



Also read article about Anorexia from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

1
Natalia
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Aug 4, 2006 @ 6:18 pm
I'm from Argentina. I don't think I'm anorexic but most of the people around me tell me that I'm ill and that I need help. I fear getting fat and I try to lose weight. I lost 11 kilos. i'm 24 and i have 51 Kilos. I want to know if I am ill or not. i practice physical exercises and I try to eat once a day but not much.Am I suffering from anorexia? The article is quite interesting that's why I decided to write becaue I feel ashamed to talk about it with people around me. I'll be very glad if you could give an answer. Regards
2
lore
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Aug 8, 2006 @ 1:13 pm
I'm from argentina and i wanna know if i'm ill, because eat quite well and i have 60 kilos, everydoy tells me that I have a nice body but I think the opposite. please que should i do???
thak you
3
Amber
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Sep 10, 2006 @ 1:01 am
I'm from California and I don't know if I am anorexic but I think I am really fat and people tell me I am skinny and that I need to gain weight. Everyone thinks I get skinnier every month. I try to eat a snack once a day and nothing else. I am very self-concious. I am always depressed. I have lost two pants sizes quickly and I want to get skinnier until I fit into a pair of pants that are a size 00, 0, or 1. I'm obsessed about being skinny, and I hate myself. But not only do I think I am fat, I think I am ugly. And I get really upset about the way I look, that can't help to take it out on my body and start starving myself even more. I have recently just got asthma and I don't know if it's from starving myself but my doctor told me it's from emotional stress and allergies. I hate my social life, and I have can't get along with my family, and I run through a lot of emotional stress. I'm also doing modeling and acting soon, so I really am in desperate need of getting a lot skiinier. I am 5'8 and 120 pounds, I want to weigh about 100. Please help me! Thank you.
4
gracie
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Oct 13, 2006 @ 2:14 pm
oh dear god, what is wrong with being a size 12?? there is nothing wrong with some curves!! i had an issue for a while until my bf told me i was to thin and not as lively and beautiful as i used to be!! so be pround of a bit of a tummy , caus stick arms and your ribs on show is not attractive and no one should feel under pressure to look like this!! so why do we??
5
Lydia
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Oct 16, 2006 @ 6:06 am
my family moved last summer when i was about to go into middle school. i was always sad because i had no friends and all the girls who were sticks made fun of me because i was overwieght. i was suprised because at my old school i had lots of friends who didnt care about my wieght. so i decdied that i whould lose some wieght. i was 130 pounds and 5 foot 1 and i shrunk to 118 pounds. my family said i looked great but no one at school seemed to care. so i started skipping lunch and cutting down on breakfast. i was 105 pounds and people at school started saying i looked great. craving for more attention i started skipping breakfast and lunch. now people say im to skinny. im 5 foot 4 and a half and i wieght 89 pounds. ive started to eat a little more, but now im starting to think about throwingup (i still think it is gross though) im only 11 and im not sure on what to do.
6
crista
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Nov 25, 2006 @ 9:09 am
to all the girls who posted quetions asking ' am i anorexic' the simple ansawer is YES !!!
Eating 1 meal or less a day is not normal, and for a growing teen or adolecent to be eating so little will cause dramatic health issues both now and in later life .
Normal people need around 2000 -> 2500 callories to grow normally , and people undertakeing regular physical activities need more .
Anorexia can kill ....
please seek help
x
7
nikki
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Jan 22, 2007 @ 10:22 pm
Please girls! I used to be anorexic...it is not fun or cool. I don't think that you should try to be so thin. Not all models are that thin. Heck! there are overweight people out there making more money being plus models than thin! So... why puke and die when you can eat and model?
8
Lacey
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Feb 20, 2007 @ 4:16 pm
My name is lacey and i'm 11. I weigh about 61 pounds. I'm a little skinny. being small runs in my family. Eating is my favotate thing to do. Am I anorexic, I don't think so but I want to make sure
9
lacay
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Feb 20, 2007 @ 5:17 pm
this is lacey again. I eat three meals a day and snacks during the day at school. I eat a lot of sweets but i don't get any fatter. that only means i have a high metablism right?
10
jess
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Mar 11, 2007 @ 1:13 pm
hi i dont think i have an eating disorder but i do try to skip lunch and breakfast and i have thrown up a couple of times. i think about not eating all the time and get mad when i do eat. is there something wrong with me?
11
Amanda
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Apr 12, 2007 @ 3:15 pm
To Lacey: Anorexia is a psychological disorder, where people CHOOSE not to eat for a variety of reasons. So if you are eating, then no you do not have anorexia.
12
Jill
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Apr 29, 2007 @ 3:03 am
Girls,
There is something so scary about being so thin that ribs show. There is nothing sexy about it. Girls (and even some guys) who hurt themselves by starving to be even thinner than what they THINK they are, are merely torturing themselves. If you feel you may have a problem, then you probably do. What a good thing that you are realizing it. Read up on self image.
The best way to be your best, truly, is to eat healthy, whole foods, get lots of protein, like lean chicken fish and or beef, an ice cream scoop sized "ball" of steamed rice or one potato, some nice steamed veggies, and a big glass of milk. And that's only DINNER! Eat oatmeal with 2% milk for breakfast, and salad and soup and maybe toast for lunch.. and VOILA, you are healthy, baby! Do it and your hair will be shiny, drink tons of water and your skin will glow, and just keep yourself looking your best.
Don't try to be so damn perfect, as nobody ever IS! Smile! keep your body clean and your clothes tidy, your hair neat, and your nails neat. You're beautiful! We are all different in body form, and to be your very best, you need to feel good.

You CANNOT feel good if you don't eat. It's simple. Your heart suffers, you look drawn and shriveled, and nobody wants that! Just be healthy and laugh as often as possible. If someone says something hateful, ignore them. The best revenge is a happy smiley shiny haired and strong person. Go for walks! Get a routine where you eat a nice balanced breakfast, make time for your beauty regime, and don't forget lunch, and NEVER skip dinner.
Screw those people that make you feel like you are fat. You're NOT fat! You're beautiful!
Mom has spoken! It is so.
Love, Jill
13
torii
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May 11, 2007 @ 12:12 pm
i dont think im anorexic, but i dont think im in shape, i fele like there are things about me that i dont like, many say im fine, and others disagree, i thought of anorexia as a soultuon, but im not sure how to help my slef,i need help, i know i do,
14
annoymous
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Jun 1, 2007 @ 9:09 am
hi, im 20 and i hav a 1 year old son, ever since havin my child i think im fat, my body has gone thru alot of changes but i hate it. i try not to eat n only hav my tea on a night. if i do hav a snack thru the day i will get annoyed with myself. i weigh about 7 n half stone but like to be less. do i hav an eatin disorder?
15
Katie
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Jul 27, 2007 @ 4:16 pm
I think a lot of girls really struggle with their self-image. I am almost 21, and my struggle had been a secret for years, and it's exhausting. I can never get up the courage to talk about it. But how do you break such a cycle? It's so binding, addicting. I know it's harmful, but I've tried to be in control for so long, I feel out of control. I'm sure a lot of people feel this way. My fear is this: will I have to live like this the rest of my life?
16
Koren
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Nov 19, 2007 @ 12:12 pm
I am not anorexic at all but everyone thinks i am. i eat a whole bunch and i still can fit in size 0 and 1 pants. I love it! I do have my own small curve and i have size 36 C boobs so how can i be anorexic... also... I have a fast metabolism... given to be by my parents. But i do have a fear of becoming fat... I think fat people are ugly in a way that i am friends with them but i would NEVER want to wear their pants... LITERALLY!!! I think it is disgusting and not for me... Im a future model to be and proud of it! lol
CHOW

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