Millions of Americans suffer from anorexia. Anorexia is an eating disorder that causes the person to become dangerously underweight. This condition has physical and psychological effects. Both men and women can have anorexia, but it is more common among women.
People who do not understand anorexia may expect the person from anorexia to just eat and be cured from the condition. The causes of the starvation associated with anorexia runs much deeper than an unwillingness to eat.
The causes of anorexia are not totally understood, but the messages of needing to be thin that are delivered through the media, peers, and family are often blamed. Some anorexic patients say that they developed the disorder due to the need for control over their bodies, often after a trauma such as sexual violence made them feel a loss of control.
Anorexia causes a misperception of the person’s weight. Even if they are very thin, people with anorexia may see themselves as overweight. In addition to this distortion of their body image, people with anorexia are extremely fearful of being overweight. This combination of fear of excess weight and perceiving excess weight fuels the disorder.
Depression is common among people with anorexia. Many deaths associated with anorexia are attributed to depression and suicide.
People with anorexia become obsessive about food. They may memorize the nutritional labels of foods and label some food as “bad.” Chewing food and spitting it out is a common behavior. People with anorexia may also develop certain rituals around eating like cutting the food into tiny pieces.
Excessive exercise is a common behavior associated with anorexia. People with anorexia may also know how much they need to exercise to burn off the calories they consume. The compulsive exercising can damage the joints.
The physical effects of anorexia can be fatal. The most common cause of death associated with the physical effects of anorexia is an electrolyte imbalance. Anorexia can also cause a dangerously irregular heartbeat.
About sixty percent of people with anorexia recover with treatment. Treatment often includes medical treatment for any physical effects, therapy, and nutritional education. Hospitalizations may be necessary to treat either the medical or psychological symptoms of anorexia.