According to the Mayo Clinic, anorexia nervosa “is an eating disorder characterized by abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight.” Anorexia distorts a person’s perception of their own body image and causes them to take whatever measures they feel are necessary so that they do not gain any weight. These measures can include severely limiting their food intake, exercising excessively, and misusing laxatives and diuretics.
Anorexia actually has little to do with food and much more to do with how people with anorexia view themselves.
People who struggle with anorexia often place all, or at least a significant amount, of their self-worth on how much they weigh or how thin they look. Body dysmorphia, a condition in which a person has a deeply flawed view of their own bodies, often coexists with anorexia. This combination can cause a person to be unable to see just how unhealthily thin they are, or even view themselves as overweight.
Those who have anorexia might shy away from eating in public, claim that they are not hungry, become moody or overly sensitive, lie about what or how much they have eaten, try to camouflage their thinness in baggy clothing, and obsess over their reflection or avoid mirrors altogether. Hiding anorexia is possible, but usually, the signs become so obvious that they are impossible for others to ignore.
According to the Mayo Clinic, noticeable warning signs and physical symptoms of anorexia can include:
- Extreme weight loss or not making expected developmental weight gains
- Thin appearance
- Abnormal blood counts
- Dizziness or fainting
- Bluish discoloration of the fingers
- Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- Soft, downy hair covering the body
- Absence of menstruation
- Constipation and abdominal pain
- Dry or yellowish skin
- Intolerance of cold
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of arms or legs
- Eroded teeth and calluses on the knuckles from induced vomiting
Living with anorexia can be challenging, but with the right treatment, recovery is possible. If you or a loved one suffers from anorexia, reach out to us. We want to help.