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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to simply as anorexia, is one type of eating disorder. More importantly, it is also a psychological disorder. Anorexia is a condition that goes beyond concern about obesity or out-of-control dieting. A person with anorexia often initially begins dieting to lose weight. Over time, the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. The drive to become thinner is actually secondary to concerns about control and/or fears relating to one's body. The individual continues the ongoing cycle of restrictive eating, often accompanied by other behaviors such as excessive exercising or the overuse of diet pills to induce loss of appetite, and/or diuretics, laxatives, or enemas in order to reduce body weight, often to a point close to starvation in order to feel a sense of control over his or her body. This cycle becomes an obsession and, in this way, is similar to an addiction.

Amanda Wood was on her way to becoming a championship ice skater when she was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of thirteen. In and out of the hospital for the past 3 years, Amanda is now 16, only 70 pounds, and is struggling with the disease that has her literally starving her body to death.

AMANDA WOOD: "I just feel better about myself when I weigh less. I don't know it almost makes me feel good that I am doing harm to my body. It's not just about food and losing weight. There's a lot of underlying issues, like a lot of people need the control. I feel weak a lot and tired a lot. I've lost a lot of bone mass too. So a lot of times if I walk for a long time my back will start to hurt."

This year a thousand people will die from Anorexia Nervosa.

More people die from an Eating Disorder than any other Mental Illness.

Take the Eating Disorder Test

Certain situations and events might increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. These risk factors may include:

Being female. Teenage girls and young women are more likely than teenage boys and young men to have eating disorders.

Age. Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range from pre-adolescents to older adults they are much more common during the teens and early 20s.

Family history. Eating disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who've had an eating disorder.

Family influences. People who feel less secure in their families, whose parents and siblings may be overly critical, or whose families tease them about their appearance are at higher risk of eating disorders.

Emotional disorders. People with depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have an eating disorder.

Dieting. People who lose weight are often reinforced by positive comments from others and by their changing appearance. This may cause some people to take dieting too far, leading to an eating disorder.

Transitions. Whether it's heading off to college, moving, landing a new job or a relationship breakup, change can bring emotional distress, which may increase your susceptibility to an eating disorder.

Sports, work and artistic activities. Athletes, actors and television personalities, dancers, and models are at higher risk of eating disorders. Eating disorders are particularly common among ballerinas, gymnasts, runners and wrestlers. Coaches and parents may unwittingly contribute to eating disorders by encouraging young athletes to lose weight.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is characterized by a significant weight loss resulting from excessive dieting. Most women and an increasing number of men are motivated by the strong desire to be thin and a fear of becoming obese. Anorexics consider themselves to be fat, no matter what their actual weight is. Often anorexics do not recognize they are underweight and may still "feel fat" at 80 lbs. Anorexics close to death will show you on their bodies where they feel they need to lose weight. In their attempts to become even thinner, the anorexic will avoid food and taking in calories at all costs, which can result in death. An estimated 10 to 20% will eventually die from complications related to it.

Anorexics usually strive for perfection. They set very high standards for themselves and feel they always have to prove their competence. They usually always put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. A person with anorexia may also feel the only control they have in their lives is in the area of food and weight. If they can't control what is happening around them, they can control their weight. Each morning the number on the scale will determine whether or not they have succeeded or failed in their goal for thinness. They feel powerful and in control when they can make themselves lose weight. Sometimes focusing on calories and losing weight is their way of blocking out feelings and emotions. For them, it's easier to diet then it is to deal with their problems directly. Anorexics usually have low self-esteem and sometimes feel they don't deserve to eat. The anorexics usually deny that anything is wrong. Hunger is strongly denied. They usually resist any attempts to help them because the idea of therapy is seen only as a way to force them to eat. Once they admit they have a problem and are willing to seek help, they can be treated effectively through a combination of psychological, nutritional and medical care.

Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

Noticeable weight loss Becoming withdrawn Excessive exercise Fatigue Always being cold Muscle weakness Obsession with food, calories, recipes Excuses for not eating meals (ie. ate earlier, not feeling well) Unusual eating habits (ie. cutting food into tiny pieces, picking at food) Noticeable discomfort around food Complaining of being "too fat", even when thin Cooking for others, but not eating themselves Restricting food choices to only diet foods Guilt or shame about eating Depression, irritability, mood swings Evidence of vomiting, laxative abuse, diet pills or diuretics to control weight Irregular menstruation Amenorrhea(loss of menstruation) Wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss Frequently checking weight on scale Fainting spells and dizziness Difficulty eating in public Very secretive about eating patterns Pale complexion (almost a pasty look) Headaches Perfectionistic attitude Feelings of self-worth determined by what is or is not eaten No known physical illness that would explain weight loss

Physical Problems/Medical Complicatitons

Fatigue and lack of energy Amenorrhea(loss of menstruation) Skin problems Dizziness and headaches Dehydration Shortness of breath Irregular heartbeats Cold hands and feet Bloating Constipation Hair loss Stomach pains Decreased metabolic rate Edema (water retention) Lanugo(fine downy hair) Loss of bone mass Kidney and liver damage Electrolyte imbalances Osteoporosis Insomnia Anemias Infertility Depression Cathartic colon(caused from laxative abuse) Low potassium (most common cause of nocturnal cardiac arrest) Cardiac arrest and death