If a person is anorexic and still has regular menses, or has lost a great deal of weight yet still is of "normal" or borderline weight, most therapists would have to officially classify this as an eating disorder not otherwise specified, but effectively, this is still anorexia.
There are two subtypes of anorexia: the restricting type, and the purging type.
Some people with anorexia may restrict for periods of time, and later binge and often subsequently purge; these behaviors are also seen in bulimia nervosa, although a person with anorexia generally restricts overall food intake more than one with bulimia. Others with anorexia may purge after eating normal or very small amounts of food, especially when made to eat with family members. This is how the two "subtypes" of anorexia come into play.
Repeatedly chewing food and spitting it out without swallowing is also sometimes seen...another behavior that therapists may instead classify as "ED-NOS," unless the patient meets all other criteria of anorexia. Excessive exercise, use of diet pills, laxatives and/or diuretics are also very common as well. Anything to manipulate that number on the scale.
As far as dispeling the vanity myth, anorexia is hardly a beautiful thing. Women who were sexually abused may use weight loss to make their breasts smaller, so they will be sexually unattractive (the same rational through the opposite means is sometimes seen in binge-eating disorder). An eating disorder is also often a way to numb out, an issue of control (e.g. "the only thing I can control in my life is what goes in or out of my body"), or as a coping mechanism to deal with problems in life. Some researchers classify eating disorders as "addictions," and indeed, some people with anorexia do report feelings of euphoria during long periods of fasting or restricting. Not unlike the "runners high" that occurs from exercise, this "high" occurs for the same reason: the body produces endorphins to mask the pain of starvation. This is why recovery from anorexia is more complicated than a simple "Just Eat."
Another common myth is that only teenage girls develope anorexia. The fact is, anorexia in young adults, middle-aged women, and even the elderly, is on the rise. Many adults have faced anorexia (or other eating disorders) for many years; others do not develop their eating disordered behaviors until well into adulthood.
It should also be emphasized that anorexia is not a disease only for girls and omwn. Statistics show that about one in ten anoretics is male. The fact that the disorder is more commonly seen in females is partly due to the fact that society sends different messages to males and females about what their bodies should look like, but the fact that there are males with the disorder should prove my point that anorexia is more than just an overzealous bout of dieting.
Anorexia isn't a "white" thing, either. Rates of eating disorders among African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are also on the rise, although researchers have not focused on these groups for study until fairly recently.
For some reason, many individuals have the notion that if a person does not look like he or she just stepped out of a concentration camp, then that person cannot be anorexic. This is an extremely dangerous belief. NOT all anoretics look like skeletons; in fact, very few do. But just because a person is not completely emaciated doesn't mean that they do not have anorexia. Conversely, not every single person who is underweight necessarily suffers from an eating disorder. Remember: an eating disorder is about behavior and thought patterns... not how much one weighs.
|Anorexia Nervosa||Bulimia Nervosa||ED "Not Otherwise Specified"||Binge Eating Disorder|
|Causes of eating disorders||Physical and emotional effects||Signs and symptoms||Getting help/Recovery|
|Why figure skaters?||ED questionnaire||Books on eating disorders||Eating disorder links|
|Issues of diagnosis||Submission form||Healthy coping skills||Body image links|