Walking a Thin Line – Defining Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that most commonly affects teenage girls and young women. However, it can also occur in adults, both male and female. People with anorexia nervosa are extremely conscious and obsessive about their weight.

They may weigh themselves several times a day or spend a great deal of time looking at their figure in the mirror. Even though they are very thin, people who suffer from this disorder actually think they are overweight.

When they look in the mirror, they do not see themselves as others do. All they are concerned about is losing more weight or the never ending fear of weight gain. Although doctors do not know what causes anorexia nervosa, patients who are afflicted with this disorder often have similar personality and behavioral traits.

Many times they are perfectionists who are very critical of themselves. A person who suffers from anorexia may feel an overwhelming need to be in control of everything around them. Some patients are even under the illusion that if they lose weight they will be happier and life in general will be better. Exercising several times a day or for long periods of time is not uncommon for people with anorexia. They will do anything to achieve what they feel is the perfect body.

A few or several of the following symptoms may be present in people who suffer from anorexia: weight loss, loss of appetite or refusal to eat, over exercising, hair loss or change in appearance of the hair, overwhelming fear of weight gain, unusual eating habits such as refusing to eat around others or chewing food excessively, and constant dieting or the use of weight loss supplements.

Treating anorexia is somewhat similar to treating a person who suffers from alcoholism. In order for the person to receive treatment and recover, they have to actually want to change.

If the person does not admit they have a problem or does not believe that there is anything wrong with them, often they will not respond well to any type of medical treatment or counseling therapy.

This is especially a problem in people with anorexia since they do not see themselves as being too thin. Many times they will resist treatment or help. People who have suffered from anorexia for a long period of time will need extensive treatment and follow up counseling.

While getting the person back to a healthy weight is the ultimate goal, doctors must also treat the underlying cause. They need to try and understand what feelings or problems caused the disorder to occur in the first place.

Changing a person’s way of thinking is essential in preventing a reoccurrence of the disorder. Prompt treatment is especially important for a person suffering from anorexia. The longer the disorder persists, the harder it is for the person to physically recover.

Although only a small percentage of the population suffers from anorexia, it has a fairly high fatality rate when left untreated. Patients who refuse to eat are usually kept under hospital care and receive feedings through a tube until they are able to eat on their own again.

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  • Karen Wood

    I am 52, years old and was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa when I was 10 years old. However, I have not recovered it still rules my life in varying degrees. I am not sure that anyone fully recovers ever. I have experienced abusive relationships, depression and PTSD, and a strong desire to be loved and accepted by others.

  • Tracy Barwick

    Hi I think my 32year old daughter has anorexia.i am concerned about her mental and physical state .i don’t know what to do or how to go about helping her is there anyone ican talk to as she is so thin and gaunt .she has 3 children and is married.she has these symptoms .


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