Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Anorexia nervosa — often simply called anorexia — is an eating disorder in which people place a high priority on maintaining their weight and shape what they consume. It is characterized by an unrealistic perception of body weight and a devastating fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Symptoms of this condition include fasting or excessive physical activity in an attempt to keep the weight below normal, even if it means disrupting their lives.
Anorexia isn’t primarily a food disorder. It’s a tremendously harmful and, in some cases, even a life-threatening technique of dealing with emotional issues. When you have anorexia, thinness is generally associated with self-worth.
Stereotypes and misunderstandings regarding who “gets” eating problems can cause delays in diagnosis and treatment. Various myths abound surrounding the condition, making it difficult to know what’s true or false about the condition.
As a result, it may be difficult to notice early warning signs and symptoms in yourself or those you care about. It is critical to pursue early intervention strategies since they can take over your life and can be very difficult to overcome, leading to chronic malnutrition, long-term health complications, and even death.
So, what’s the real story?
Here are the 5 things you should know about anorexia, so as to reverse some of its serious complications.
Myth #1: Anorexia is an ‘Obsessive Compulsion’ that can be controlled
Although those who suffer from anorexia want to be slim, it is not something they select. An eating disorder is not something that people just ‘catch’ for a short period of time. An eating problem like anorexia is unlikely to be “stopped as requested.” Anorexia nervosa is more than just a desire for thinness; it also has an obsessional component, as well as an inability to recognize one’s body as it is, which makes this eating illness even more challenging.
Myth #2: Anorexia only affects women
Girls and women are more likely to suffer from anorexia. However, eating disorders are becoming more common among boys and men too, probably as a result of increased social pressures. Anorexia nervosa may be more common in fashion models and high-level athletes who compete in sports that emphasize body weight and shape (such as gymnasts, jockeys, and dancers). An eating disorder like anorexia can affect persons of any gender or age, though it’s rare in those over 40.
Myth #3: Anorexia doesn’t cause any serious medical complications
Anorexia is not a lifestyle choice. It is a sign of a complex condition that can have a detrimental impact on both physical and mental health. Every organ in the body can be affected by anorexia. This may result from an imbalance of electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium, and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body.
Complications of anorexia include anemia, heart problems, long-term digestion troubles, hormone issues, and other health repercussions such as severe dehydration and renal failure. Low blood pressure, infertility, and brain damage are other anorexia-related health conditions that can develop over time. If a person with anorexia becomes severely malnourished, it can compel people to engage in behaviors to the brink of self-injury, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts.
Myth #4: People with anorexia intentionally starve themselves
True, people suffering from anorexia may deny their hunger, eat or drink insufficiently, and have a strong fear of gaining weight. However, the eating disorder is primarily about the person’s physical and mental health, including the person’s individual risk factors that contributed to anorexia symptoms, and whether they have any other health disorders that could play a role, such as depression or anxiety.
And, while hunger is a well-known sign of anorexia, it isn’t the only one. Anorexics may also binge eat, exercise excessively, and purge through vomiting or the use of laxatives.
Myth #5: You need to be considered ‘underweight’ to have anorexia
Unfortunately, many people who satisfy several of the criteria for anorexia but do not experience considerable weight loss or have a low BMI (body mass index) go untreated due to the misunderstanding that they must be skinny to have the condition. Because of the widespread weight stigma associated with this condition, many people suffering from ‘atypical anorexia‘ are unaware that they have a severe eating disorder or are less likely to be identified due to cultural bias against obesity.
Myth #6: Recovery from anorexia is not possible
The path to rehabilitation isn’t always easy, but it is attainable. Overcoming anorexia sometimes calls for lifelong treatment and maintenance for some people. Some people are hesitant to seek treatment because they are afraid of being stigmatized, believing their illness isn’t “that” serious, or that they can recover on their own. It’s critical to realize that you’re worth it and that you deserve to recover from your eating problem and live a happy, healthy life. It’s crucial to realize that no one’s road to rehabilitation is without flaws.
Myth #7: You can get over anorexia if you start ‘eating normally’
Despite the fact that anorexia nervosa is linked to starvation, the condition isn’t about food or if you’re “eating normally.” It’s critical to address the eating disorder symptoms and medical repercussions, as well as the external variables that contribute to or support the eating disorder, in a thorough treatment strategy.
Unfortunately, many persons suffering from anorexia don’t believe they have a problem and hence do not want to be treated, at least in the initial stages. Their compulsive obsession to stay thin takes precedence over their health concerns. If you have concerns about a loved one, encourage him or her to see a doctor.
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