Anorexia In today’s society, we often hear of people who suffer daily from illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, tuberculosis, downs syndrome and many other types of illness both communicable and non-communicable. What about the illness that consumes the life of over eight million Americans, 90% being women? “Anorexia nervosa, in medicine a condition characterized by intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese, as well as a distorted body image, leading to an excessive weight loss from restricting food intake and excessive exercise. Anorexia nervosa is not associated with any preexisting physical illness. It is found chiefly in adolescents, especially young women.” 1 Anorexia nervosa, according to psychologists is a mental disorder: “psychological and behavioral syndromes that deviate significantly from those typical of human beings enjoying good mental health. In general, a mental disorder involves present distress or impairment in important areas of functions.”2 The illness is brought on by many elements, mainly negative feelings towards ones appearance, low self-esteem, depression, the need and want to compete in a sport and be number one, and the need to strive for perfection.

Women today are greatly affected by the need to look perfect. What woman doesn’t want to look like Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Brooke Shields or Naiomi Campbell (just to name a few)? According to a recent survey in GLAMOUR magazine, not many. The survey shows that out of 33,000 females who participated 85% were not Chambers 2 happy with their body and overall appearance. Women of our generation suffer from the impacts of having a poor body image, and would go to any lengths to get the look of the latest cover girl model. The results of this trend, although good for the distributors of diet pills, fad foods and the so-called miracle drinks, are destroying the young women of America. What may start out to be a simple diet can quickly turn into a deadly illness.

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A dieter who starts by skipping a meal once and a while will slowly begin to fade away, the illness starts off showing promising results with visible rapid weight loss, but quickly becomes fatal. The disease is on the rise amongst athletes, both men and women ” Eating disorders originate in the mind, and like any disease of deception, they are difficult to escape.”3 It is for this very reason that athletes are so susceptible to the illness. Their minds tell them that in order to be the best, they need to look the best and in order to look the best they have to be as thin as possible. The illness is extremely common in gymnastics, and this can be clearly seen in the case of a young women named Christy Henrich whose life recently fell short when anorexia took over her mind, body and soul and won. At the young age of twenty-two she died of multiple organ failure, weighing in at only sixty-one pounds.

According to Dr. David McKinsey, “a person passes the point of no return, and then, no matter how aggressive the care is, it doesn’t work. The major problem is a severe lack of fuel. The person becomes so malnourished that the liver doesn’t work, the kidneys don’t work, and neither do the muscles. The cells no longer function.” 4 Even though her weight showed an improvement from just 47 pounds at the time of her discharge from a previous medical center, to 61 pounds at the time of Chambers 3 admittance to Research Medical Center in Kansas her body just could not handle the complications from all the years of abuse. She was pushed to hard by her coach, and the want to be the perfect gymnast, and it took her life ” Eating Disorders are easily the gravest health problems facing female athletes, and they affect not just gymnasts, but also swimmers, distance runners, tennis and volleyball players, divers, and figure skaters.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, as many as 62% of females competing in “appearance”sports (like figure skating and gymnastics) and endurance sports suffer from an eating disorder.”.


Anorexia It would seem today that eating disorders are on the rise. While this may be true, the numbers may appear to grow only because more cases are being brought out into the open. One interpretation of an eating disorder is termed as a relationship between the person and food that appears abnormal. Anorexia Nervosa is one of the most prevalent eating disorder diseases. The word Anorexia itself means, “lack of appetite,” and as for the definition of Anorexia, Anorexia is an all encompassing pursuit of thinness, occurring most often in adolescents and young adult women.

This is accomplished by avoidance of eating by any means possible. The person affected by Anorexia has an absolutely terrifying fear of becoming obese. In short, food becomes the enemy, this is described as weight phobia. The person feels too fat when in reality the person is terribly underweight. Anorexia affects all kinds of people, especially teenagers, and is the third most common chronic illness that can be found in adolescent women.

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An estimated amount of between % and 3% of teenagers will be diagnosed with Anorexia. This may not sound like very many people, but numbers have increased, between the 1950’s and mid 1970’s, the incidences of Anorexia increased by almost 300%. Of all the patients that visit doctors for Anorexia, about 90% are women. Anorexia, though, does not plague only women. This disorder is not exclusive to one gender.

Since this problem does not only include women, men are also referred to as being caught in the trap of Anorexia. The percentage of males diagnosed with the disorder have grown to 10%, and of children dealing with Anorexia, 25% are boys. The mean onset age of Anorexia in males is between the ages of 17 and 24. Men are actually more likely to hide an eating disorder, and it may be in an advanced stage before a diagnosis has been made. Anorexia in males may not be as detectable, due to the misinterpretations of physicians in the patients’ diagnosis.

Much of the same risk factors may be found in both men and women. Looking at the psychological perspective, a few reasons can be seen. There are people who have personality disorders such as obsessive-compulsive problems like perfectionism, obsession with appearances, and weight. A person such as this can often be seen standing in front of a mirror for long periods of time, is often critical of his or her physical appearance and is afraid to lose control of what is going on in day to day life. Low self-esteem, depression, stress and anxiety are also major reasons why a person might suffer from an eating disorder.

The effects of surroundings or environment can greatly influence eating disorders. The family also plays a major role, since close relationships with people influence ones’ attitudes and behaviors. Also, suffering physical and sexual abuse may lead a person to an eating disorder because they see it as a way to control something in their lives. Aside from family, pressure from peers and the society around us can contribute to the growing number of Anorexics. Since surroundings are so influential on us all, what surrounds us more than the media? When one looks at the media today, it is difficult not to notice the fashion industry.

To look at the fashion models, who are 15% thinner than the average American woman, one can clearly see that underneath the season’s hottest new trends the taller-than-average women are very, very slender almost to the point of being gaunt. Society seems to teach the people that they have to look a certain way to be successful and accepted. Anorexia itself has certain characteristics, concerning the thought processes, the physical aspects, and the eating patterns related to it. The previously discussed psychological factors that lead up to an eating disorder like depression, low self-esteem, and obsession, all may lead to insomnia, mood swings, hyperactivity, and suicide. The physical signs are quite startling as well, such include an irregular heartbeat, the person is often cold and has frequent headaches, a tingling sensation in the hands, feet, and face, dizziness, lightheadedness, blood in a person’s vomit, bruised knuckles and fingers from induced vomiting, dry skin, brittle hair and loss of hair. Victims lose 15% of their total body weight with a failure to gain the weight back. Other symptoms include hypertension, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, dental deterioration and muscle wasting.

The eating behavior of the anorectic may be cutting food into tiny pieces, eating extremely slow, and aimlessly pushing food around on his/her plate. As devastating as Anorexia is, it can be treated. The very basic principle of treatment is to prevent death by starvation. This often entails the patient being admitted to a hospital for monitoring, followed by an outpatient program after improvement is noted. While being treated as an in-patient, the person is weighed in the morning, after urination.

The daily fluid intake is also monitored. The restroom is taken off-limits for a minimum of two hours after eating to prevent induced vomiting. The daily calorie intake is in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 calories and is gradually increased to allow for the body to adjust to the new amounts of food. In conclusion, Anorexia greatly affects all who are touched by it. Boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, and close family all feel the icy finger of pain as they see the one they love try to fight such an overwhelming battle.

With these cases becoming more and more apparent in today’s world. Its important that people are aware and, know how to spot eating disorders, and help someone else or them selves overcome something like Anorexia. Another eating disorder disease is Bulimia. People who live with Bulimia seek out binge and purge episodes. They will eat a large amounts of food in a short period of time and then use behaviors such as taking laxatives or self-induced vomiting, in order to punish themselves for something they feel they should be blamed for. This can be in direct relation to how they feel about themselves, or how they feel over a particular event in their lives. The Bulimic will also seek these episodes to avoid and let out feelings of anger, depression, stress or anxiety. People suffering from Bulimia are usually aware they have an problem.

Fascinated by food they sometimes buy magazines and cookbooks to read recipes, and enjoy discussing dieting issues. Some of the behavioral signs can be, recurring episodes of rapid food consumption followed by tremendous guilt and purging, a feeling of lacking control over his or her eating behaviors, regularly engaging in stringent diet plans and exercise, the misuse of laxatives, and/or diet pills can all be warning signs someone is suffering with Bulimia. It is important to realize that what makes a person Bulimic, as opposed to Anorexic, is not the purging, but the cycle of bingeing and purging. Purging may be using laxatives or self-induced vomiting, but there are Bulimics who use other inappropriate compensatory behaviors such as compulsive exercise to attempt to burn off the calories of a binge, or fasting the day following a binge. It is not uncommon for a people suffering with Bulimia to take diet pills in an attempt to keep from bingeing or to use diuretics to try to lose weight. A victim will often hide food for later binges, they will often eat secretly and can have an inconsistent weight. It is important to note that you can still suffer from Bulimia even if you dont have any of the signs present.

In other words, if you think you have Bulimia, it’s dangerous to read about the signs and think “I don’t have one of the symptoms, so I must not be Bulimic”. One of the most common medicines is Prozac in this fight to beat and cure Bulimia.(fluoxetine hydrochloride), an antidepressant. It is usually prescribed in 10mg or 20mg capsules in doses of 20mg to 80mg per day. The indications are depression, symptomatic relief of depressive illness, such as Bulimia. The most common side effect though are anxiety, nervousness, drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth, upset stomach, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach gas, rash and itching. Less common is changes in sex drive, abnormal ejaculation, impotence, abnormal dreams, difficulty concentrating, increased appetite, hair loss, dry skin, chest pains, abnormal heart rhythms, blood pressure changes, double vision, urinary pain, eye or ear pain, and low blood sugar.

You see even the most effective medications have flaws in interaction with this disease. Most people with this disease are put into the hospital and on the same treatment as Anorexia victims. Both Anorexia and Bulimia have many similarities in both illnesses, the most common being the cause. There seems to be a common occurrence of sexual and/or physical and emotional abuse in direct relation to eating disorders. There also seems to be a direct connection in some people to clinical Depression. The eating disorder sometimes causes the depression or the depression can lead to the eating disorder.

All in all, eating disorders are very complex emotional issues. Though they may seem to be nothing more than a dangerously obsessive weight concern on the surface, for most people suffering with an eating disorder there are deeper emotional conflicts to be resolved.