Anorexia nervosa is a common eating disorder, and although many people are familiar with the physical and emotional health consequences it can entail, it is important to also be aware that the disorder actually has two different types.
Anorexia nervosa comes in the form of restricting one's dietary intake, or purging what one has already consumed. This disorder, in which the affected individual effectively starves their own body, can have many serious health consequences, and in some cases can lead to death. The severity of this disorder requires proper treatment to recover and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Anorexia is considered to be extreme weight loss and the consequences of starving oneself are not mild. Because the body stops receiving adequate nutrition, muscles can deteriorate and weaken and the person with the disorder can also feel a general sense of weakness and fatigue.
These effects are the result of the body's efforts to conserve limited resources due to not receiving enough nutrients to function properly.
What are some of the warning signs of anorexia?
An individual with this disorder may be overly concerned with dieting and food. This can include focusing on weight gain, counting calories, being unwilling to consume certain foods and avoiding meals, all factors which can lead to extreme weight loss. However, even though they may be experiencing negative health consequences as a result of these behaviors, the individual will not see the situation clearly, and may make comments about being fat despite having visibly undergone dramatic weight loss.
In addition to the above warning signs, the person may engage in excessive exercise in an effort to burn more calories. The person will show a fear of gaining weight and will perceive themselves as fat, despite their actual, very thin appearance.
Anorexia and Bulimia: What's the difference?
Those already familiar with the disorder may confuse it with Bulimia. However, they are distinctly different. Those with anorexia are severely underweight due to ongoing self-starvation, while those with bulimia may have a normal weight or might even seem overweight. With bulimia, the affected person will vomit after a meal and will also likely overeat. With anorexia, the person experiencing the disorder will be underweight.
According to the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD), this disorder affects as many as 24 million people in the United States, but only one out of ten people with the disorder receive treatment for it. Although women have a greater likelihood of developing anorexia, men can experience it as well. Additionally, athletes have been found to be at a greater risk for anorexia, especially those engaged in sports that are judged or scored. ANAD reports that eating disorders carry the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders, and that it is possible to die from complications arising from the disorder, such as heart problems. In some cases affected individuals may take their own life. Other related causes of death can include organ and heart failure and malnutrition.
What you can do
Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. If you believe that you or someone you love is suffering, there are resources that can help. The highly capable and experienced doctors, psychiatrists and nurses at the Fairwinds Treatment Center work together to establish an individual treatment for those impacted by this disorder. Founded by Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef in 1989, the professional team at Fairwinds, which includes Dr. Pauline Powers, uses a dual-diagnosis approach to recovery and provides emotional and psychological support, in combination with nutritional guidance. With the proper treatment for anorexia, you or your loved one can experience healing.