The word ANOREXIA means “appetite loss of nervous origins”. A person suffering from anorexia may lose a considerable amount of weight in a short time. Even though they may be very underweight they can still carry an intense fear of putting weight on. Perfectionism is often apparent in anorexia.
Even though underweight, a person may still see themselves as overweight or large, this heightened fixation on their size and body image leads to a low self-worth and low self-esteem as they define themselves by how they look. It is mostly girls that get anorexia but one in every 50 will be male. There can be intense pressure on people to not be fat and with anorexia, this fear of their weight and body image is all consuming. This process can be exhausting both mentally and physically and this process can block a person from experiencing other emotions that they find painful or unable to process. Anorexia is diagnosed when a person BMI is less than 17.5 or 10% less than what would be expected at their age and size, but people can battle the symptoms and associated behaviours for years without diagnosis.
Physical effects of anorexia may include: headaches, dizziness, low iron levels (anaemia), weakness, fatigue, muscle loss, bloating, abdominal pain, heart failure from electrolyte imbalances such as low sodium or potassium, low blood pressure, constipation, diarrhoea, irregular or absent periods, infertility, dehydration, kidney failure, loss of bone calcium, osteoporosis, brittle nails, thin hair, yellowing of the skin (jaundice).
Types of anorexia
Restricting Anorexia: people restrict their food intake and they may over exercise to burn calories and lose weight. They may also: cut out certain food types often carbs or fats, skip meals, have strict rules around what they will or won’t eat, obsessively count calories, limiting food to once a day.
Binge/purge type Anorexia: a sufferer will restrict your food but also binge on foods, other behaviours may include self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas or laxatives, excessive exercising.
Signs of anorexia
Rapid weight loss or frequent weight changes
Loss or disturbance of menstruation in girls and women and decreased libido in men
Fainting or dizziness
Feeling cold most of the time, even in warm weather (caused by poor circulation)
Feeling bloated, constipated, or the development of intolerances to food
Feeling tired and not sleeping well
Lethargy and low energy
Facial changes (e.g. looking pale, sunken eyes)
Fine hair appearing on face and body
Worrying about gaining weight
Feeling anxious about eating high calorie/fatty foods
Thinking a lot about the way your body looks
Thinking a lot about food, when and what you’ll eat
Not being honest when friends/family ask about what you’re eating
Hiding food or trying to get out of eating at meal times
Exercising or purging to ‘undo’ what you’ve eaten
Feeling low/depressed after eating
Withdrawing from social situations
Feeling that you are overweight even when others say you are not