Earlier symptoms of anorexia nervosa can be mistaken for regular dieting; the only difference is the person starts to become preoccupied or somewhat obsessive with food and dieting that it consumes their entire life and may disrupt relationships, careers, self-image, etc. Psychologists site that anorexia nervosa is common in most women and can be easy to conceal from other people. If you feel that you or someone you know is overwhelmed by their body image, and are becoming quite obsessive towards eating and weight loss, here are the mental, behavioral and physical signs you may have anorexia.
Mental And Behavioural Signs Of Anorexia
- Frequent skipping of meals
- Obsession with weight on the scale
- Avoiding eating out with friends/relatives
- Adopting certain eating rituals, such as slicing food into smaller portions/pieces or spitting food out after chewing
- Not admitting to hunger
- Fasting for multiple hours on end
- Exercising tirelessly even without having eaten anything
- Lack of energy
- Lack of emotion
- Weighing yourself repeatedly
- Always check the mirror for flaws, usually after eating
- Counting calories
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Using natural or chemical laxatives
- Use of Dietary supplements
- Use of non-prescription drugs that are said to cause weight loss (Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroine, etc.)
- Consuming appetite suppressants
Anorexia occurs when an individual becomes obsessed with their weight, particularly losing it, and developing a fear of gaining more. According to Dana Harron, PsyD, “An eating disorder is about using food and the body as a way to cope with deep and complex emotional issues.” The eating disorder may develop commonly through life experience related problems, genetic inheritance, or the general pressure society weighs on the idea of being “skinny” and losing weight. It also develops more within young women in their adolescent years.
Anorexia can be recognized with two inter-related patterns:
- The refusal to maintain healthy body weight or BMI for a man/woman, mainly wanting to be underweight
- Incredibly distorted self-image (Body dysmorphia) and settling with the idea that the individual is overweight even when he/she is not.
Physical Symptoms Of Anorexia
- Weak nails
- Irregular heartbeat
- Dry/pale skin
- Gets cold easily
- Drastic weight loss
- Irregular or loss of menstruation
- Thinning hair
Anorexia occurs when an individual starts to go through extreme measures to restrict eating and lose weight drastically. Most individuals with anorexia nervosa also exercise excessively even while fasting. Anorexia is a mental illness that can push an individual to starve up until he/she is severely underweight, and even then this person can still perceive themselves as overweight. In an article she wrote, Lauren Muhlheim, PsyD, states that “Research suggests that when combined with the intense fear of weight gain or fat and significant body image disturbance experiences, as little as a 5 percent weight loss may indicate clinically meaningful eating pathology, qualifying the patient as having a diagnosis of atypical anorexia nervosa.”
Experts mostly associate anorexia nervosa with excessive dieting and the stereotype that someone who has anorexia is automatically skinny. In an article she wrote, Heather Gallivan, PsyD, states that “Dieting can lead to anorexia when a diet becomes so restrictive you have an imbalance of energy intake and energy expenditure.” Anorexia is much more than disordered eating patterns; it is a severe mental illness that takes a heavy toll towards someone’s mental health and self-image. Signs of the eating disorder can be actions of coping with stressful life experiences and an obsession with being physically “perfect.” Therefore the illness can come in any shape or form and can affect each person differently.
Many other mental disorders may accompany anorexia nervosa (Co-occurring disorders) such as:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Most aren’t fully diagnosed with co-occurring disorders due to the difficulty in identifying such in each patient. Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness that has established itself as the voice in your head that tells you to stop eating. Over the years anorexics are a broad audience online through multiple websites and apps filled with people who help each other restrict and maintain food intake or weight. Most individuals with anorexia call the voice in their heads “Ana” and go on these “Pro-Ana” websites to live their lives trying to reach an unhealthy and unattainable body goal.
Effects Of Anorexia
- Brain damage
- Heart attacks
- Heart palpitations
- The shutdown of major body systems
Anorexia usually develops itself at an early age, as the youth are more prone to caving into superficial standards the media push onto young women and men every day. It is essential to recognize that anorexia does not have a particular body type, and can exist within different kinds of people in different ways.
Anorexia is a mental illness that convinces an individual that the body they are in is “too fat” even when the person is at an average weight. This mindset and assumption, therefore, pushes the body to severe and deadly limits to lose weight. If you or anyone you know, show or have any of the signs and symptoms, see, numbers on the scale does not define who you are. Do not be afraid to talk to someone or seek professional help.