Which Eating Disorder Is Best Characterized By Extreme Weight Loss An Introduction to Anorexia Nervosa

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An Introduction to Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa, or simply Anorexia as it is commonly called, is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an obsession with extremely low body weight, distorted body image and an extreme fear of gaining weight. In addition, it is also considered a psychological disorder because a person with anorexia is obsessed with controlling their body and weight. Over time this obsession becomes an addiction, just like any other substance or drug abuse.

Like many other eating disorders, anorexia may also occur during pre- or post-pubertal stages, affecting women more than men. Approximately, 95% of people affected by Anorexia are adolescent females. However, this eating disorder is not limited to teenagers and can affect women at any stage of their lives. Similarly, men and especially teenage men, are also at risk of developing this eating disorder. Estimates in the US claim that one teenage girl in every 100 suffers from Anorexia. Also, it has been found that white people are more prone to Anorexia than other races in the US. It turns out that a person’s socio-economic background also affects this eating disorder as it is found to occur most often in those from middle or upper socio-economic backgrounds.

Anorexia can be of two types: the Restrictive type and the Purging type. In the restrictive type of Anorexia, people try and control their weight by limiting food intake and by exercising excessively. In contrast, the purging type of Anorexia is characterized by overeating followed by purging by means of self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics, along with restriction of food intake and excessive exercise.

As with many other psychological disorders, the biggest obstacle to diagnosing this condition is the fact that people who suffer from it are usually in denial not thinking that they have any problem. People with Anorexia are unlikely to seek professional help on their own and in most cases medical treatment is due to the intervention of family and friends. However, the following are the most common criteria for diagnosing Anorexia:

  • Refusal to maintain a minimum normal body weight
  • A strong fear of gaining weight
  • Inability to acknowledge true body weight, or weight loss, i.e. body image distortion
  • Missing at least three menstrual cycles in a row

Anorexia can lead to various physical and psychological problems, if left untreated. For starters, those with Anorexia are prone to violent mood swings. Their hair and nails become brittle and their skin turns yellow. They are prone to hypothermia due to loss of body mass and they may develop a thin layer of fine hair on their body. If Anorexia passes this phase, it can damage internal organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver and brain. It will also affect a person’s pulse rate and blood pressure which is likely to decrease. Bones become brittle and break easily. In very severe cases, starvation due to Anorexia can even be fatal.

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