Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological and eating disorder characterized by dangerously low weight, self-starvation, a serious fear of gaining weight, and severe weight loss.
Individuals living with anorexia nervosa have a distorted perception of their body image which comes from a place of body dysmorphia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety and depression which leads to using extreme measures which are detrimental to their health in order to keep losing weight and prevent weight gain.
Such measures include:
- Obsessively monitoring their calorie intake
- Indulging in laxatives after every meal
- Inducing vomiting after meals
- Partaking in excessive exercise.
Individuals living with Anorexia are most times hungry but the fear of weight gain leads to their refusal to eat.
Anorexia Nervosa is commonly diagnosed in adolescent females but also in older females and males. It is diagnosed when an individual’s weight is about 15% less than the ideal body weight.
There is no particular cause of this eating disorder but through the combination of several factors such as:
1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Individuals with past trauma such as sexual or physical abuse have the tendency of following a strict diet to cope with the disturbing emotions they experience.
2. Sociocultural factor: Cultures which glorify having a “slim body” body type place needless pressure on individuals to achieve the “ideal” body weight and shape, especially as a criterion for getting a job e.g. modelling agencies. The media also has a major role to play as a contributing factor in making the slim body the perfect body type from what’s portrayed on television and other social media platforms.
3. Peer pressure: This is a major factor for which it is common in adolescents. Peers have a role to play in a developing individual and if an adolescent is subjected to bullying and ridicule by peers, it can contribute to both mental health disorders and eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa.
4. Mental disorders
Signs and Symptoms
There are various signs of this eating disorder which can be psychological, behavioural or physical. They include:
– The constant fear of weight gain
– Engaging in extreme physical activities even on low energy
– Usage of diet pills
– Dizziness and fainting
-Brittle hair and nails
-Weight loss over a very short period of time
-Hypotension (low blood pressure)
-Excessive use of laxatives
-Dry skin and purplish colouring of certain parts of the body
-Constant fear of looking in the mirror
Certain treatments have been proven effective in dealing with eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa. They include:
- Nutritional Therapy: This is a nutritional approach developed to give proper information about food and its benefits, balancing and maintaining healthy body weight and image.
2. Medications and Supplements: Antidepressants play a significant role in dealing with emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety. Supplements are administered to deal with nutritional deficiencies.
3. Hospitalization: In severe cases such as malnutrition, the patient is placed on close observation. So, as to monitor vitals and ensure proper nutrition of the patient.