Eating Disorders

Understanding The Characteristics Of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia has received a lot of publicity in recent years, but how can you identify if someone you love is suffering from this disease? It’s often very difficult to spot, simply because it tends to be accompanied with other symptoms as well. For example, the sufferer may be showing signs of anxiety, stress or depression. To an outside observer, the person may appear to be going through a fairly normal slump, when in fact they are struggling secretly with something a great deal more serious. So what can you do to determine if anorexia is your loved one’s problem?

It’s most common for anorexia nervosa to be diagnoses in young women, but the reality is that anyone can be affected. It’s a serious eating disorder, and is brought about by the sufferer having an unhealthy fear of gaining weight. They react by beginning to limit the amount of food eaten, to avoid gaining weight. It’s this obsessive need to control the food they eat, coupled with an unhealthy body image, which points to anorexia.

Once someone is suffering from anorexia, they develop a very low body weight. They will demonstrate a marked fear of becoming obese, or even just of gaining a small amount of weight. They will often describe their body in distorted terms, making it clear they don’t have a realistic body image. They often will complain of being fat, even though everybody else will comment on how they’re actually very thin. This lack of weight and insufficient sustenance often leads to increased fatigue, as well as headaches or even lightheadedness. They’re also likely to get sick more often, as their immune system is weakened. So they regularly catch colds and fevers, have digestive problems and other common ailments.

The anorexia sufferer’s unhealthy relationship with food manifests itself in a variety of ways. Often they complain of digestive problems to avoid food. They regularly struggle to eat or finish a meal, even if they’ve only picked at the food in the first place. They’ll generally refuse to attend social gatherings where there’s likely to be lots of food available. Some of the physical characteristics of anorexia include:

  • Very pale
  • Unnaturally thin
  • Unhealthy in general
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Dull eyes
  • Hair is thin and limp
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Signs of anxiety or depression
  • Become reclusive
  • The change in personality can be quite marked in someone suffering from anorexia; they often transform from a happy, outgoing and enthusiastic person into a negative, depressed and obsessive character.

    Another clue to look for is the use of diet pills. Often anorexia patients will use over the counter diet pills to increase urination and bowel movements. They may also use diet pills to suppress their appetite. Others will develop exercise routines that are obsessive. Their wardrobe will often consist of loose, baggy clothing to disguise their body shape. They may even progress to a stage where they refuse to eat in front of anyone else.

    It’s important to try and keep the channels of communication open, but at the same time you need to let them know what you suspect. Make sure you talk to them in a sympathetic and non-confrontational way. Make it clear that you love them, but that you’re concerned about their health. Try and do everything you can to get the sufferer to seek counseling and medical attention straight away, because anorexia really is a serious condition that can lead to major health complications, and in extreme cases, death.

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