Anorexia nervosa. Is it a disease? A lifestyle? A mental condition invented by teenagers? Most doctors call it a mental disease that can only get worse if it is not treated. It’s difficult to unravel the mysteries behind this condition, but it is only another growing problem in society everywhere.
Anorexia can be defined as the merciless pursuit to be thinner. In severe conditions, the person probably weighs 85% or less the weight considered healthy for their body type. The most common, obvious symptoms include the person denying that they are too skinny, extreme fear of getting fat, and also extreme fear of gaining any weight whatsoever. Less obvious symptoms are depression, compulsiveness, strange eating habits, and irritability. Sometimes women skip menstrual periods, or they stop completely.
There are signs that are visible to anyone. These include dry skin which has a grayish or yellowish cast, excess hair on the arms, stomach, and face, swollen glands in the neck region, and fainting spells. However, these cosmetic disadvantages are nothing compared to the health risks which can’t be seen.
The most serious effects of anorexia on the body can range from a little cold to death. Along with a weakened immune system, anorexia can cause extreme damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, teeth, bones, and stomach lining in some cases. Anorexics can suffer from a lot of physical damage without even knowing it. Two of the most common causes of hospitalization for anorexics are irregular heartbeat and osteoporosis, even at a young age.
What would drive someone to do this to their self? People blame the media, among other things. But, in reality, it all starts in the anorexic’s head. They look in the mirror and see an obese person, which disgusts them. This usually leads to either not eating nearly enough, or eating none at all.
Who is at risk? Anyone, male or female, young or old, can fall into the trap of anorexia. However, some teenagers involved in sports, acting, modeling, and other activities where they are the center of attention are prime candidates for anorexia. It’s also common among male homosexuals. A lot of people who develop anorexia were very good children who worked hard and were always eager to please everyone. Sometimes they want to please everyone by being “perfect”… perfectly tiny. These people want to stand out and get attention, and they do so by becoming incredibly thin.
Unfortunately, they never feel perfect enough, so they keep starving themselves, which often leads to health problems, or death. The mortality rates that involve anorexia are horrifying, and the cost of therapy is outrageous- up to thousands of dollars every day. The death rate associated with anorexia for women ages 15-24 is 12 times higher than rates of all other fatal conditions.
Sadly enough, only one in ten anorexics receive treatment. Also, only 30-40% of all anorexics fully recover from their disease. This illness is taking the lives of many, many people worldwide. If you know someone who you think may be anorexic, please encourage him or her to seek treatment. You could save their life.