We have all heard of anorexia?. In today's image obsessed society, we only need to pick up a newspaper on any given day to read stories about public figures rumoured to be suffering from it.
But what exactly is Anorexia Nervosa? And how can you diagnose potential sufferers? Anorexia Nervosa is a complex psychological condition that causes people to starve themselves. People who suffer from Anorexia are pathologically afraid of becoming fat, and without intervention sufferers may starve themselves to death.
People suffering from this debilitating illness loose unhealthy amounts of weight, often dropping to 15% below their normal body weight. Tragically, because of the psychological nature of the illness, they are still totally convinced that they are over-weight, despite what the mirror or the scales may tell them. As the illness progresses, the individual's grasp on reality weakens, and they become increasingly unable to perceive themselves or their bodies in an accurate way. The disease can cause shrunken bones, irregular heart beat, stunted growth, and can lead to osteoporosis and in some cases, death.
Symptoms of the illness include:
extreme weight loss
inappropriate body weight for age and build
- shyness or refusal to eat in public
- anxiety, physical weakness, shortness of breath and sensitivity to cold
- missing three menstrual periods in a row
- hair loss
- fine downy hair growing all over the body (in advanced stages)
This illness is most common among middle to upper class whites, particularly women, although in today's appearance-obsessed society men are increasingly affected. It is specifically linked to professions where thinness is considered an asset, such as dance, theatre, gymnastics and distance running. If you know some one who may be suffering from this disease, it's important to encourage them to see a doctor or therapist as quickly as possible.