According to a study done by Dubovsky (2011), the mortality rate of Anorexia is 5.86. The collective data from thirty-five studies showed that 20% of Anorexic deaths were by suicide (Dubovsky 2011). Unlike some diseases, Anorexia is not something that can be “caught,” it is not viral or bacterial, yet it manifests from within and affects both the mind and the body. Anorexia is a physical disease as well as a psychological disease, and is oftentimes difficult to understand for non-anorexics. The risk factors for Anorexia, the symptoms and dangers, and the diagnosis and treatment are things that all people need to be aware of in order to take charge of their own lives and stay healthy.
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight. The fear of being overweight causes anorexics to eat as little as possible in order to look as thin as possible. It is a result of the interplay of debilitating cognitive, emotional, and physical processes (Buchholz 2011). The DSM-IV states the specific specifications for a body weight that would characterize a person as anorexic: loss of original body weight to 85% or less of what is expected for normal weight and height (Scholten 2010). Anorexia is one of the three main eating disorders; the other two being Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. Bulimia is characterized by the urge to ping and purge, and Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by episodes of binge eating in which the person with the disorder feels they cannot control themselves.
The skeletal system is affected by Anorexia because the disease is typically found in adolescents. Adolescence is the prime time for growth and development of the skeletal system, and when the body isn’t nourished it cannot properly grow. Because of improper growth development, anorexics may more easily develop osteoporosis. When a body is in starvation mode, it loses heart muscle rapidly and causes the heart to become weaker and smaller (Anorexia 2011). A weaker heart cannot control the body’s circulation as well as a healthy heart can. The metabolism of the body shifts gears when in starvation mode. It makes the appetite smaller, the stomach’s capacity for food to lessen, and may limit the ability to clearly consider eating habits. Sometimes, the disease gets so intense that it intermingles itself with Bulimia, and patients get the urge to regurgitate any of the little food they eat.
Anorexia is much more prevalent in females than with males. Scholten (2010) estimates that there are about 5%-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia that are male. Adolescence is the typical age group in which Anorexia develops. The peak age of the onset of Anorexia is between 15 and 19 years old (Cooper 2011). Many anorexics have mood disorders that either contribute to their Anorexia or that might have played a role in causing their Anorexia. Mood disorders that are tied with Anorexics are Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Depression, Anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder. All of these factors make the average anorexic female, teenage, with a mood disorder.
There are many symptoms of Anorexia, most of them having to deal with how your body copes when it is in starvation mode. When you starve yourself, your body will alter it’s activities in order to survive and will send you warning signs to remind you to eat. Symptoms of Anorexia include severe weight loss, binge eating, weakness, dizziness, increased body hair, feeling cold, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, fasting, too much exercise, and in females the disappearance of a monthly period (Cooper 2010). Most of the other symptoms are caused by the lack of nutrients and the obsession over being thin. There are hormone changes that result from the low weight and low levels of body fat (Cooper 2010).
A woman’s menstrual cycle may go away because of the changes in hormones. According to Bulik, these disruptions may be caused by decreased levels of systemic estrogen resulting from a prolonged restriction of caloric intake and/or excessive exercise (2011). Studies have shown, however, that the fertility problems of formerly or current anorexic women only mildly differ from those women of the general population. When current anorexic women get pregnant, however, this poses a threat to the development of the fetus, so it is very important that those women get on a meal plan for their pregnancy and try to maintain their health as much as possible in order to have a healthy baby.
If someone is suffering from an eating disorder, they need to be taken to see their healthcare provider. In order to have a higher success with treatment, the person needs to admit that they have a problem with their eating habits. Their doctor will do a physical examination, lab tests, and inquire the patient’s medical history. Physicians ask the patients if they have any of the following behaviors: always choosing low calorie foods, binge eating, purging, taking laxatives, ritualistic eating, over exercising, withdrawal from friends and usual activities, and denying hunger. Such eating habits include cutting up food into tiny pieces, chewing food much longer than necessary, or hiding food to throw away when the opportunity arises.
The goal of treatment is to: reduce fear of becoming fat, reduce depression and anxiety, reduce constant thoughts about food and thinness, and help you gain weight (Developed 2010). If a patient has a mild case, they will be given therapy, a dietician, and more frequent checkups by their primary doctor. In some cases, patients need to be admitted into a treatment program, which can be in-patient or out-patient, and depending on the severity of the disease the amount of time you are at the treatment facility varies. Patients who are severely Anorexic to the point of their life being threatened are often hospitalized. In treatment, patients are given meal plans and have to stick to them. Patient’s meal plans will start small and gradually get bigger as their digestive system gets used to processing the food and the stomach can fit the food. Some patients blatantly refuse to eat, and can be given feeding tubes to wear all the time that will feed nutrients into their body without them having to manually eat them.
Anorexia is a serious disease and and does not go away or get better on its own (Developed 2010). If untreated or treatment is unsuccessful, many patients eventually die from starvation or suicide. This disease may take years to recover from, and some do not recover at all, but maintain their conscious treatment and have to cope with their difficulties for the rest of their life. After reaching a normal body weight, a person may still have to continue therapy or medication. Recovering anorexics can relapse if their stress levels are high.
To prevent a possible onset of Anorexia, healthy people should maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan and a generally healthy and happy lifestyle. If a person has trouble dealing with their emotions, they should see a therapist in order to learn how to cope with difficulties and use healthy ways to solve those conflicts instead of taking out emotions on the body through starvation.
Anorexia is a disease characterized by extreme weight loss brought on by starving oneself. I talked about how one may prevent getting Anorexia by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and positive outlook on life, and touched on the symptoms and the dangers of Anorexia that could lead to death by starvation or suicide. We know now that Anorexia can be diagnosed by a physician following a physical exam and an observation of the patient’s eating habits. I discussed the various efforts of treating Anorexia, how a patient may be resistant to treatment, and the complications of recovering fully from the disorder. In conclusion, Anorexia is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is a widespread issue in America especially among adolescent girls, and people need to be aware of its dangers in order to avoid it and live a healthy life.