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Anorexia: An Overview

image (3)We all at one point or another look in the mirror and fixate on something we’d like to change. If only we were taller, more attractive, or thinner… When these thoughts become obsessive and start taking over our lives, they can mutate in to a multitude of unhealthy patterns. For many, the thought of gaining weight is such a devastating prospect that they will literally do anything to keep it off, including making themselves sick. This is fertile grounds for eating disorders to develop, including anorexia.

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia Nervosa is a complex eating disorder that has three signifying features:

1. An unwillingness to maintain a healthy body weight

2. A distorted body image

3. A heightened, intense fear of putting on weight

Though it is more common in young women, anorexia can potentially affect anyone, even those who are underweight. It often begins in the pre-teen years or young adulthood. The disorder seems to be most common in caucasian women who are high achievers in school and who have a goal-oriented family or personality.

The exact causes of anorexia nervosa are not known. Many factors may be involved. Genes and hormones may play a role. Social attitudes that promote very thin body types may also be key factors.

Risk Factors and Behaviors

There are many potential risk factors that could be involved with someone becoming anorexic. These may include:

  • Being fixated on weight and shape

  • Having an anxiety disorder as a child

  • Having a negative self-image

  • Having eating problems during infancy or early childhood

  • Having certain social or cultural ideas about health and beauty

  • Trying to be perfect or overly focused on rules

Those with anorexia typically will either limit the amount of food they eat to the point that they will starve themselves or will eat and then induce vomiting. Other behaviors may include:

  • Cutting food up or moving it around their plate instead of actually eating it.

  • Extreme exercising to the point of obsession

  • Disappearing in to the bathroom after every meal.

  • A refusal to eat around other people

  • Using pills to make themselves urinate (water pills or diuretics), have a bowel movement (enemas and laxatives), or decrease their appetite (diet pills)

Other identifying traits may include:

  • Blotchy or yellow skin that is dry and covered with fine hair

  • Confused or slow thinking, along with poor memory or judgment

  • Depression

  • Dry mouth

  • Extreme sensitivity to cold (wearing several layers of clothing to stay warm)

  • Loss of bone strength

  • Wasting away of muscle and loss of body fat

Those who suffer from anorexia become so fixated with what they will or won’t eat that it takes over their lives, often shutting out friends and family in the process. Anorexics feel powerless in their pursuit of staying skinny that they will go to any extreme to lose weight. Regardless of how thin they may become, they will see themselves as needing to lose more weight.

Those with anorexia typically deny having a problem. In reality, it is a serious and potentially deadly eating disorder. Fortunately, recovery is possible. With proper treatment and support, sufferers can break anorexia’s self-destructive pattern and regain health and self-confidence. Shades of Hope is a treatment facility in Buffalo Gap, Texas that can help someone struggling with an eating disorder or any other form of addiction. If you think that you or someone you know may have anorexia, we can help. Visit or call 1-800-588-HOPE.

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