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Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia Nervosa is the condition most people think of when they hear the term ‘eating disorder’

The UK health department has revealed that anorexia is one of the conditions with the highest mortality rate among the more common eating disorders.

It is also important to understand that eating disorders are the leading cause of death among mentally ill persons in the world. As an eating disorder, anorexia is life threatening. It is characterised by certain behaviour where the victim tries to keep their weight at lower levels by:

Most commonly, anorexics suffer from the fear of putting on weight. Their view of their body image is distorted, and they see themselves differently from the they are seen by other people. This often means that, even when they have lost weight and are extremely thin, they still believe they need to lose more weight. They can do this via several means, including going to extreme levels, as long as they are shedding weight. Therefore, they will resort to the options mentioned above to reduce the number of calories they take in and to prevent further weight gain. This also helps them to shed the extra weight that they believe they need to rid themselves of. Anorexics are usually characterized by an abnormal body weight and the patient’s conviction that they still must lose more weight.

This is different from bulimia, which is a little bit more difficult to diagnose by just looking at the physical features, because the patient will often be of an average or slightly below average weight.

Anorexics believe that they are obese and so they succumb to illness not because of a lack of appetite, but due to their belief that they are obese and must continue to withhold food. However, it is often incorrectly believed that this condition could be caused wholly by the patient’s insecurity about their weight. The truth of the matter is that it is among the many options that people resort to when it becomes difficult to control their lives, as food becomes the only aspect of their life that they continue to have a level of control over. Consequently, the condition is more concerned with emotions and has very little to do with simply unhealthy eating behaviours. It is caused by low self-esteem and the inability of the sufferer to trust and believe in themselves. As a result, we can assume that anorexia refers to the response of the patient to anxiety, external conflicts, and depression. As a result, we can assume that anorexia refers to the response of the patient to anxiety, external conflicts, and depression. It is often more difficult to overcome anorexia compared to other disorders, such as bulimia. However, if there are proper care and support systems in place, it is possible to reverse the effects and damages inflicted on the victim.

Effects, Symptoms, and Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

To be able to diagnose the disorder as anorexia, one must be able to identify the symptoms and the signs of the condition in the victim.

Anorexia manifests itself in certain physical signs, which allows the practitioner to identify and differentiate it from the other types of eating disorder.

Note that the initial stages of this disorder are not unique and so it may not be easy to distinguish between the condition and other disorders. Also, there are cases where symptoms hide themselves.

In some cases, one could attribute them to other diseases or may think that they are symptoms or side effects of the medicine the victim could be taking.

Physical symptoms to help one identify anorexia:

- Weight loss that results from below average food consumption.

- Emaciated and gaunt appearance - the bones affected include cheekbones, ribs, and collarbone, which will appear to poke out from beneath the skin. This happens because of reduced or muscle loss caused by anorexia.

- Abnormality in blood count - normally, doctors will ask their patient to complete a blood test that includes, but not limited to, kidney and liver functionality, blood glucose level, folic acid test, B12, electrolyte analysis, blood cell count, presence of thyroid stimulating hormone in one’s blood, and concentration of cholesterol.

- Liver functionality is one of the tests that can be relied upon to help diagnose anorexia.

- If the liver enzyme, such as aspartate transaminase and alanine transaminase, level is high, it indicates that liver cells have been damaged or inflamed.

- Tiredness — feeling fatigued is one of the effects of anorexic eating disorder. However, it should be noted that this symptom is also associated with other conditions that are not necessarily anorexia.

- However, a patient suffering from anorexia will feel tired because the sufferer is receiving insufficient nutrients compared to what is required by the body's metabolism.

- In most cases, the patient may be suffering from an iron deficiency.

- The tiredness may manifest itself in fainting spells that are hard to explain.

- Seizure - the patient is found to suffer from a bout of seizures. This is more common in patients suffering from anorexia than in any other disorder and results from an electrolyte imbalance.

- When the patient is dehydrated because of a lack of water, it leads to seizures, courtesy of electricity surges.

- Brittle Nails - this is one of the physical symptoms associated with other diseases as well. The symptom is a result of a deficiency in vitamin D and is common among anorexics who do not eat meat, cream, or milk, which is all rich in vitamin D. The nails of the patient will become brittle and breakable. In some cases, the top layer of the nail may will begin peeling off, since they are weak.

- Hair Loss - restricting eating results in malnutrition and loss of hair.

- Irregular Menstrual Cycle - because the patient is not consuming enough nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, it causes an imbalance in the levels of progesterone and oestrogen. Thus, women will experience an irregular menstrual cycle, or their monthly periods may disappear altogether for some time. This indicates that the hormone that enables the reproductive system of a person to function as it should is not present and the body becomes infertile.

- Constipation - Anorexics will avoid all kinds foods, including foods that contain fibre. These are foods that make the stomach feel that it is full. Also, lack of roughages makes it difficult for faeces to freely move in and out of the intestine as it should, resulting constipation.

- Dry Skin - Anorexics will avoid eating any food they consider fatty. This makes their skin appear dry, cracked, and chapped. Since the moisture required in helping keep the skin supple is produced from fatty acids and fats, anorexia leads to the drying of the skin as these foods are avoided.

- Cold intolerance- Anorexics will avoid foods with fats. As this happens, the adipose tissue layer is depleted, making the patient more susceptible to cold and shivering.

- Irregular Heart Rhythms - since anorexics consume very little food, the body does not get the energy it requires to enable it carry out its numerous functions. Note that the heart must have very strong muscles to be able to pump large volumes of blood to various parts of the body. Also, it consumes a lot of energy as it performs these functions. Lack of energy could cause the heart to become fatigued and experience arrhythmias. The fatigue is also attributed to reduced or in low blood pressure in anorexics.

Osteoporosis- Anorexics do not consume dairy products. As a result, they do not get enough calcium and vitamin D that allows the body to perform its normal functions. The body will begin using the reserves of vitamin D and calcium found in the bone core. This is what leads to irreversible weakening and bone degeneration.

Behaviours That Characterise Anorexia

* Note that all the symptoms and the signs discussed above may drastically interfere with the normal functioning of the body. It can also interfere with how the victim goes about their daily life.

It can cause them drop out of school if they are students, and even contemplate committing suicide.

Some of the reasons that could drive them to this include: the inability to maintain a job, a negative body image, and social isolation from friends and even close family members.

It is critical to note that anorexia is a severe problem and if you see the symptoms in your loved one, advise them to visit a doctor immediately.

If anorexia is not diagnosed, it could be fatal. The sufferer may slide into a coma, since the body does not have the energy to support its normal activities. The victim may also suffer from brain damage, a condition that is not reversible, or suffer from multiple organ failure. Knowing these symptoms is certainly important. Also, it is necessary that you support any person that you think suffers from this condition. Encourage them and remind them to help them regain their former good health.

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