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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

Microsoft Corporation.

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