Dangerous Psychological Disorder: Anorexia Nervosa
Are you obsessively scared of gaining weight? Have you heard of Anorexia or Anorexia nervosa?…. Anorexia nervosa is a health condition that happens to be unfamiliar to lots of people. They experience it but do not know it nor know the term for what they are experiencing because they have little or no knowledge of anorexia nor anorexia nervosa
Those who know but not in-depth might be wondering why I keep separating anorexia and anorexia nervosa. You are probably wondering and thinking “aren’t they the same thing?” Well, they aren’t but they are often used interchangeably as that’s not necessarily a big deal. But then what is Anorexia nervosa and what is the difference between anorexia and anorexia nervosa?
What is Anorexia Nervosa?
‘Anorexia nervosa’ is a serious psychological condition and a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that causes people that may be going through it to obsess about weight and what they eat. While the term ‘anorexia’ on its own simply means a loss of appetite or inability to eat. The scientific term anorexia nervosa (1957) is from the symptom anorexia (“loss of appetite”). Anorexia nervosa is characterised by self-starvation and a distorted body image due to an irrational or unwarranted fear of being overweight.
I came across the word ‘anorexia’ for the first time a long time ago from one of my favourite movies of all time “make it or break it“. I was pretty young but curious. So in MIOBI, Kaylie Cruz the national star gymnast was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. People tend to experience this dangerous psychological condition for so many reasons.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
It often happens as a result of biological, environmental and psychological factors.
This factor contributes to the occurrence of this eating disorder include genetics and Irregular hormone functions. Some evidence suggests a link between anorexia and serotonin, a chemical produced in the brain.
This may include the hormonal changes that occur during puberty, and feelings of anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem. Others include:
- The effects of the thinness culture in media, that constantly reinforce thin people as ideal stereotypes
- Professions and careers that promote being thin and weight loss, such as ballet and modelling
- Family and childhood traumas: childhood sexual abuse, severe trauma
- Peer pressure among friends and co-workers to be thin or be sexy. Etc
Between 33 and 50 per cent of people with anorexia also have a mood disorder. This disorder includes depression; around half have an anxiety disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social phobia.
Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might be more predisposed to maintaining the strict diet and exercise regimen than those with anorexia nervosa often maintain. That’s because people with OCD are prone to obsessions and compulsions. This suggests that negative emotions and a low self-image may contribute, in some cases.
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A person may develop anorexia nervosa as a way of gaining control of some aspect of their life. As they exert control of their food intake, this feels like success, and so the behaviour continues.
The following risk factors have been associated with it
- Being susceptible to depression and anxiety.
- Having difficulty handling stress.
- Being excessively worried, afraid, or doubtful about the future.
- Having eating problems during early childhood or infancy.
- Being perfectionist and overly concerned about rules.
- Having a negative self-image.
- Having had an anxiety disorder during childhood.
- Holding specific ideas regarding beauty and health, which may be influenced by culture or society.
- Having a high level of emotional restraint or control over their behaviour and expression.
Well, As seen in make it or break it, Kaylie Cruz experienced it as a result of constant pressure to maintain a certain look and athletic standard. She became a huge perfectionist, wanting to be the best. Thereby preventing anything like an overweight that could get in the way of reducing her performance as an athlete. So she kept starving herself and exercising excessively. It was for a good cause but what did it lead to? Anorexia. For her it was all for the gold medal; for you, it could be as a result of any of the other factors.
People may experience:
- Whole-body: dehydration, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, low blood pressure, low body temperature, osteoporosis, water-electrolyte imbalance, or feeling cold.
- Behavioural: binge eating, compulsive behaviour, hyperactivity, impulsivity, or social isolation.
- Weight: underweight, weight loss, or extreme weight loss and thinness.
- Mood: anxiety, apprehension, or guilt.
- Gastrointestinal: constipation or vomiting.
- Menstrual: irregular menstruation or absence of menstruation.
- Developmental: delayed puberty or slow growth.
- Also common: brittle nails, bruise, cold sensitivity, depression, dieting, dry hair, dry skin, headache, or slow heart rate.
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment increase the chance of a good outcome. A full medical history can help with diagnosis.
A mental health professional will ask about their eating habits, weight loss, and feelings. How they feel about their weight, and, for females, they could also ask about menstruation. It can be hard for the patient to open up and speak frankly about themselves. It can take years to confirm a diagnosis, especially if the person was previously obese.
Your primary care provider may also order certain laboratory tests. Blood tests may be ordered to check your electrolyte levels and liver and kidney function. Also, your primary care provider may check your bone density and look for heart irregularities.
Many with anorexia nervosa don’t believe they have a problem which makes treatment difficult. It’s seen as normal until it isn’t anymore. Realizing that you need help is one of the biggest hurdles to cross that would help treatment. One of the reasons why therapy is also recommended.
Medical treatment may be required to restore normal weight and good nutrition. Talk therapy can help with self-esteem and behavioural changes. There are different types of therapies available to people with anorexia nervosa.
Full recovery from this illness may take some time. However, people do recover from it when they are willing to be helped. Research shows that treatment for anorexia nervosa in the early stages of the illness offers the best chance of recovery, so it is important to seek help as soon as possible if you or someone you know has anorexia nervosa.
The most effective treatment for anorexia nervosa generally requires a team approach, which may include a dietitian, psychologist, family therapist and sometimes a psychiatrist.
Antidepressants and other medicines are sometimes used to treat anorexia nervosa. But the person will also need psychological therapy as well.
Learning how you respond to all of that pressure that one feels can help prevent anorexia nervosa. This helps to meet up to standard because that’s what matters the most. For the perfectionists, you do not have to be perfect. “Perfection is a mirage created from expectation“
Recommended: 4 key ways to living with your imperfections
I understand that there are times in your life when you just don’t feel happy within yourself even though outside you might seem all fine. Sometimes it’s not even physical, it could be something else. The key is identifying why you’re unhappy and why you feel the way you do and doing whatever you can to fix it healthily.
It’s not about being the skinniest; This is about your well-being which is how you feel in your skin, not how other people are looking at you and what they see … it’s what you feel like. Your well-being should always be a priority.
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