What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder classified by the unhealthy disturbance in body shape and image resulting in the refusal to maintain minimum body weight. Individuals will go to extreme measures not only to starve themselves but also to rid their bodies of any caloric intake they consumed through self-purging mechanisms such as self-induced vomiting, laxative, diuretics, and extreme exercise. This devastating eating disorder is the number one killer out of all the mental health disorders and up to four percent of women in the United States have a lifetime prevalence of this disorder compared to 0.1-0.3% of men. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate out of all mental health disorders and as a result, professional treatment is necessary before complication arise.
Are you at risk for developing anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa has many risk factors, however even if you have some of these risk factors, it does not necessarily mean you will develop this disorder, it just means you are more at risk:
- Does one of your parents or sibling have a history of eating disorders?
- Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?
- Do you feel an outside pressure to be a high achiever?
- Do you have anxiety or low self-esteem?
- Do you feel pressure to be thin or look a certain way?
Signs that you have anorexia nervosa
There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa and therefore symptoms can vary widely depending on the seriousness of the disorder and the specific subtype. The restricting type characterized by the severe limitation of food as the primary means of weight loss. The binge-eating/purging type characterized by self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, and/or excessive exercise in order to compensate for periods of food intake beforehand.
- Avoiding social situations where food may be present
- Engaging in binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting
- Laxative and diuretic abuse
- Excessive exercise in order to lose weight or prevent weight gain
- Wearing bagging clothes to cover up the excessive weight loss
- Wearing layered clothing to keep warm even during warm temperatures
- Cooking meals for others but refusing to eat them
- Obsession with body size and shape
- Adopting eating rituals such as cutting food into tiny pieces
- Complaining about being overweight when you are actually underweight
- Making excuses not to eat
Early warning signs
Disordered eating is the first stage of an eating disorder such as anorexia and it is important to recognize the red flags before your signs and symptoms turn into a full-fledged case or anorexia nervosa. The majority of early signs of anorexia include the preoccupation with food and weight gain to the point that these begin to consume most of their daily lives
- Do you think about food, dieting and weight all the time?
- Are you constantly trying a new diet?
- Do you think you are overweight when you look in the mirror?
- Do other people constantly tell you that you are thin?
- Do you have an intense fear of gaining weight?
- Do you measure or weigh your food?
- Do you avoid certain food types out of fear of weight gain?
- Are you envious of other people because they are thinner than you?