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Anorexia Nervosa Essay, Research Paper
Anorexia is an eating disorder that usually strikes women between the ages of
fifteen and thirty-five. An estimated one thousand females will die each year
from anorexia. About eighty percent of females suffer from a sub clinical eating
disorder and twenty percent will turn into full-blown anorexics in their
lifetime. These are statistics that we know of. Anorexia can be hidden very well
by many that suffer from it; therefore there are many cases we do not know of.
Anorexia is a disorder in which preoccupation with dieting and thinness leads to
excessive weight loss. The individual may not realize that weight loss or
restricted eating is a problem. (Internet Mental Health www.mentalhealth.com).
Anorexia may not be noticed in the early stages because it often starts as an
innocent diet. They often become hyperactive because they exercise frantically
in an attempt to burn calories to lose weight. Even though the anorexic is
emaciated, she still feels ?fat? and wants to hide her ?ugly, fat body?.
A victim does not need to appear underweight or even average to suffer any signs
or symptoms of anorexia. Many men and women with eating disorders appear not to
be underweight, but this does not mean they suffer any less or are in any less
danger. This is why in later and more dangerous stages; family members may not
notice the disease because the anorexic usually wears layered and baggy clothes.
(www.somethingfishy.com). Presence of a low self-esteem is the most common
element in anorexia nervosa. Stress, anxiety and unhappiness can also be leading
factors in an anorexic life. Anorexia is their way of dealing and coping with
the negative things going on in their life. Most people with eating disorders
share certain personality traits, low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness and
a fear of becoming fat. People with Anorexia tend to be ?too good to be
true.? They rarely disobey, keep their feelings to themselves, and tend to be
perfectionists, good students, and excellent athletes. Some researchers believe
that people with anorexia restrict food, particularly carbohydrates, to gain a
sense of control in some area of their lives. They have followed the wishes of
others in their lives, and they have not learned how to cope with the problems
typical of adolescence, growing up, and becoming independent. Controlling their
own weight offers two advantages in their eyes; first they can take control of
their bodies and secondly, gain approval of others. Eventually they become out
of control, becoming dangerously thin. (Microsoft? Encarta 98 Encyclopedia).
Victims suffering with Anorexia get a sense of power out of their eating
disorder. It is not uncommon to find an anorexic that feels high after periods
of starvation. This is due to their feelings of inadequacy. Their poor self
image and perception leads to feelings of guilt, they feel like they never do
anything right and nothing they ever do is enough. Starvation is an
accomplishment in their eyes, something they can do right. They also feel that
their life would be better if they could lose weight, or that more people would
like them if they lost weight. Anorexics feel a need to control physical and
emotional surroundings. In this way eating disorders are a negative coping
mechanism, used to control emotions or to keep them suppressed. It feels easier
to think about food, food intake, hunger, planning meals or avoiding them,
instead of dealing with their emotions. Eating disorders can have a numbing
effect, and can give victims a feeling of power over their emotions. (Mind &
Body- Signs and symptoms- Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders) Another
major reason why women develop anorexia nervosa is societal pressures. In our
society today there is an obsession with being thin in order to be beautiful.
The waif look was recently popular causing many people to want to look like the
models in magazines. Genetic factors can also play a role in anorexia. Eating
disorders appear to run in families. Female relatives are most often affected.
Although genetic factors may play a role in the development of anorexia, other
influences play a role such as behavioral and environmental. A recent study
found that mothers who are overly concerned about their daughter?s weight and
physical attractiveness might put the girls at increased risk of developing an
eating disorder. Also girls with eating disorders often have a father and
brothers who are overly critical of their weight. (Eating Disorders-Decade of
the Brain www.mediconsult.com). The most famous known case of Anorexia is
probably that of Karen Carpenter, who died from heart failure resulting from
Anorexia Nervosa. This disease can be defined as self-starvation leading to a
loss of body weight fifteen percent below normal, accompanied with
hyperactivity, hypothermia, and amenorrhea. Hypothermia results when the
body?s natural insulation becomes non-existent and the victim becomes cold all
the time. Amenorrhea is the absence of at least three menstrual cycles; this is
also affected by the loss of fat stores in the body. (www.mediconsult.com) Men
who are affected by anorexia are usually into professions such as gymnastics, or
modeling, acting and wrestling. Occupations or sports activities that have
specific weight or body shape requirements are what cause the problems. Although
anorexia is labeled as a women?s disease, more and more males are being
diagnosed with it. Studies show that for every ten females with an eating
disorder one male is affected. Males are under diagnosed because males are less
likely to ask for help, especially with a ?women?s disease?. It is also
believed that males with anorexia have a history of poor relationships with
their parents. Also they have inhibited sexual expression and confused sexual
identity. Many men suffering from anorexia are short, and fat before they stop
eating. (Male Anorexia- www.mentalhealth.com). Many medical complications come
along with Anorexia. Starvation can damage vital organs such as the heart and
brain. To protect itself the body shifts into slow gear. Monthly menstrual
periods stop, breathing, pulse and blood pressure rates drop, and thyroid
function slows. Frequent headaches are due to lowered blood pressure and
decreased oxygen supply to brain. They are always cold because of the lack in
circulation due to lowered blood pressure and slowed heart rate, and a slowed
metabolism. A lack in potassium in the blood caused the low blood pressure.
Their heart rate becomes slow or irregular and they develop electrolyte
imbalances and vitamin deficiencies. Nails and hair become brittle; the skin
gets very dry and yellows, and often becomes covered with soft hair called
lanugo. Excessive thirst and frequent urination may occur. Dehydration is
because of constipation from not eating. (?Anorexia Nervosa? www.wellweb.com).
Mild anemia, swollen joints, reduced muscle mass, and headaches commonly occur
in Anorexia. Their bones are more prone to breakage due to the lack in calcium.
In some patients the brain shrinks, causing personality changes. Luckily this
condition can be reversed when normal weight is reestablished. Anorexia patients
also suffer from other psychiatric illnesses. Some suffering from clinical
depression, and others from anxiety, personality, or substance abuse disorders
and many are at risk for suicide. (?Anorexia Nervosa?- www.wellweb.com). In
an attempt to understand eating disorders, scientists have studied the
biochemical on the neuroendocrine system. Through studying the neuroendocrine
system they found it regulates appetite and digestion, sleep, physical growth
and development, emotions, thinking, kidney function, and memory. These are all
functions of the mind and body, which are usually seriously disturbed in people
with eating disorders. Also the hormone vasopressin is a brain chemical found to
be abnormal in people with eating disorders. Researchers have shown that levels
of this hormone are elevated in patients with Anorexia, and other eating
disorders. Normally it is released in response to physical and possibly
emotional stress, vasopressin may contribute to the obsessive behavior seen in
some patients with eating disorders. Eating disorders are most successfully
treated when diagnosed early. Unfortunately even when a family member confronts
the sick person about their behavior, individuals with the disorder will most
likely deny they have a problem. Therefore people with eating disorders may not
receive help or treatment for Anorexia until they have already become
dangerously thin and malnourished. Eating disorders in males may be more often
overlooked because anorexia is rare in boys and men. Getting and keeping people
with these disorders in treatment can be very difficult. Treatment is very
important, the longer these abnormal eating patterns go on the more difficult it
is to overcome the disorder. Families need to offer support and encouragement to
help with the success of the treatment. People suffering from Anorexia are
suffering from an interaction of emotional and physiological problems. Treatment
must involve a variety of different doctors and approaches. Usually a treatment
team will include an, internist, a nutritionist, and individual psychotherapist,
and a pschopharmacologist (someone who is very knowledgeable about medications
useful in treating the disorder). Patients need to undergo psychotherapy that
will teach the patient how to change abnormal thoughts and behavior. Some
antidepressant medications may be effective when combined with other forms of
treatment. (?Anorexia Nervosa,? Microsoft? Encarta? 98 Encyclopedia.)
Treatment can save the life of someone with Anorexia. Friends, relatives,
teachers, and physicians all play a role in helping the ill person start to get
back to normal eating patterns and a normal life.
1. The Harvard Medical School Mental Health Letter, May 1998. ?Male
Anorexia.? Internet Mental Health (www.mentalhealth.com). America Online. 2.
?Eating Disorders-Decade of the Brain.? www.mediconsult.com/eatdisorder/.
America Online. 3. ?Mind and Body- Signs and Symptoms- Something Fishy Website
on Eating Disorders.? www.somethingfishy.com. America Online. 4. ?Anorexia
Nervosa.? Wellness Web Homepage www.wellweb.com. America Online. 5.
?Anorexia Nervosa,? Microsoft? Encarta? 98 Encyclopedia. ? 1993-1997
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