Anorexia Nervosa is a severe eating disorder that mainly affects teenage girls, however, it can affect men and women of all ages. There are many factors that contribute to a girl becoming anorexic, including low self-esteem and depression. Common features of anorexia include weight loss and behavior changes. The weight loss is gradual and often starts with a “perfectly normal weight reducing diet.”(Rowan) Although the only person who can cure anorexia is the person that suffers from it, there are some treatment options available today.
Many factors contribute to a girl becoming anorexic. A main one is an attempt to lose excess weight. Most anorexic girls do not have “excess weight” to lose, they only think they do. In fact, most often they are unhealthily thin. Oftentimes, the girl disregards the opinions of others and focuses on losing as much weight as she can. Attempts to make her stop are often met with hostility and even violence.(Rowan, Shelly)
Another key factor that can lead to anorexia is depression. This can be associated with stress/pressure at school, home, or in relationships. Usually, an anorexic teenage girl comes from a family where the pressure to succeed is great. This leads to constant anxiety over big tests such as finals and S.A.T./A.C.T. exams. Because the girl has so much anxiety, problems in relationships often arise. If she has a boyfriend, he tends to feel neglected because the girl is constantly worried about her academics.(Rowan, Shelly)
A change in personality is a very common side effect of anorexia among teenage girls. In most cases, she becomes less outgoing and less fun to be with. This leads to her distancing herself from her friends, and she may seem to lose interest in everything except food and academics. In addition, the girl may become more organized and obsessive. She may also want to cook for the family and even encourage them to eat. Although these traits may have existed before the onset of anorexia, “they are usually accentuated by the disorder.”(Rowan)
Another common side effect of anorexia is the change in family relationships. Teenage girls suffering from anorexia have been known to “lose confidence and become less assertive, less argumentative, and more dependent.”(Rowan) The aforementioned personality changes are a warning sign to parents because teenagers are notorious for trying to be independent and being very argumentative. (Rowan)
Sometimes anorexia can go unnoticed for too long, due to the girl being able to deceive her parents. Such deceptions could take the form of hiding food at the dinner table or worse, bulimia. Bulimia is a disease, also mainly affecting teenage girls, in which a girl will eat a normal meal but, immediately afterwards, regurgitate it. Often coupled with anorexia because it is an easy way for a teenage girl to trick her parents into thinking that she is eating normally, bulimia is a serious threat. It can cause such bad side effects as tooth decay and bleeding within the throat. (Poppink, 10)
Because both anorexia and bulimia are such dangerous and harmful conditions, parents must watch very closely for all the following signs to determine if their child has anorexia and/or bulimia. In many cases, she becomes quieter, goes out less, and hides food at the dinner table so the parents will think she’s eating. Or, in the case of bulimia, frequently visits the bathroom after meals. (Shelly)
It is at this crucial time, when anorexia has fully set in, that the parents must be very observant and offer, if not force, help in any way they can. Symptoms worsen as the disease progresses and if gone untreated for a long time, anorexia can cause serious health problems and, in rare cases, death. (Poppink, 10)
Although anorexia is a serious and harmful condition, there are treatment options available. One option is therapy. Most often, the girl is keeping her feelings inside and that is what is making her depressed and, in turn, anorexic. All she may need is for someone to listen to her problems and offer some good advice. Therapy works well for cases in which the underlying problems may be fairly direct and easy to discuss and treat. However, if the problems are not easy to discuss or the girl refuses to go to therapy, other methods of treatment are available. (Hall, Ostroff, Rowan)
For teenage girls that refuse to talk about their problems with a therapist, another treatment option is a support group. There are many support groups for anorexics available both online and in person. One in particular, ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders), works to prevent eating disorders through education, referrals, hot- lines, national and local training, and free support groups and research. (Hall, Ostroff)
Designed to serve the needs of anorexics, the specialized clinics offered by the Eating Disorder Unit are a good alternative. They use such techniques as peer support and rewards for improvement. In addition, they can last anywhere from a week to several months or, in extreme cases, years. (Rowan)
Anorexia is a serious disease and a very real threat to today’s teenage girls. It can be caused by depression, pressure, and by the false image that one is fat. Many serious side effects can result from anorexia, such as personality changes and bulimia. Warning signs for the disease include frequent visits to the bathroom after meals, increased obsessive behavior, and the girl becoming less social. Although the disease is serious, treatment options like support groups, therapy, and clinics are available. That battle against eating disorders is long and grueling, but it is one that must eventually be won.
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Although many of us would benefit from eating a bit less and exercising more in order improve our health and fitness, simply watching what you eat is NOT an eating disorder. Eating Disorders are potentially life-threatening illnesses which are simultaneously psychological and physical in nature. They are characterized by a range of abnormal and harmful eating behaviors which are accompanied and motivated by unhealthy beliefs, perceptions and expectations concerning eating, weight, and body shape. As a general characterization, individuals with eating disorders tend to have difficulty accepting and feeling good about themselves. They tend to think of themselves as "fat" and "ugly" because of their body size and shape, even when this self-judgment is objectively inaccurate and false. Identifying and defining themselves according to their perceived "fatness", eating disordered people tend to conclude that they are unacceptable and undesirable, and as a result, feel quite insecure and inadequate, especially about their bodies. For them, controlling their eating behaviors is the logical pathway in their quest for thinness.
The current article is designed to provide you with more information about the nature of eating disorders, their causes, potential treatments, and strategies for prevention. This information can be helpful in determining whether you or someone you love has an eating disorder. Before we begin, though, we want to stress two important points:
First, if you (or someone you love) have an eating disorder, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Between 5 and 10 million Americans have anorexia or bulimia and another 25 million suffer with binge eating disorder. Hopefully, knowing that other people have experienced what you are going through, and have gotten better with treatment, will provide you with some sense of hope.
Second, don't rely on your "willpower" to get over this condition. As mentioned previously, an eating disorder is a serious, potentially life-threatening disease. Between 6% and 20% of eating disordered individuals will literally die as a result of their disease. Seek PROFESSIONAL help for yourself or someone you love as soon as possible if you suspect there is a problem.