What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by excessive fear of gaining weight. The fear drives the sufferer to do whatever they can, no matter how extreme, to keep the weight off. The catch here is that their distorted view of their body prevents them from ever losing enough weight.

Doctors don’t know what causes anorexia nervosa. The rise in the condition is blamed on society’s image of beauty. When young girls (and boys), see the beautiful bodies of models gracing the covers of magazines and the movie screen, their own inadequacies about their body surface. It is not uncommon to have image issues as a teenager, but choosing an eating disorder as the way out, is.

Family dynamics have also been seen as a cause. In families where communication is poor and affection withheld, kids seek to find control and for anorexics, the control is the food that they eat. Having high expectations that put undue pressure on the child can also lead to eating disorders.

Anorexics may begin with a diet but it doesn’t end there. The obsession with their weight spurs them on to eat fewer and fewer meals. They stop their hunger by drinking water or exercising more. Even when the numbers on the scale drop, their lack of self-esteem won’t let them stop.

Because of their perceived problem, they may shy away from social gatherings, especially those that involve food. In school, they may separate from their friends as the condition takes over their lives. Any excuse is used to keep them out of family functions.

Over time the person with anorexia nervosa changes in appearance. They may wear big clothes to hide the weight loss but if you maintain physical contact with your child you will sense the changes. Their bodies are frail and emaciated. The natural puberty cycle is often stunted in their bodies. For girls, menstrual periods stop or don’t start at all.

Anorexics are headed for trouble. With the lack of nutrition being given to their bodies, the cells get what they need wherever they can. Bones become weak because cells are robbing calcium from the bones. Lack of energy is a common symptom because there is no fat for fuel. The organs will eventually begin to shut down.

All the while, the person suffering from anorexia nervosa is in denial. They do not believe that they are doing anything wrong and are reluctant to talk about what is happening to them. Depression sets in because no one understands them.

Anorexia nervosa is a serious condition. The first step in curing it is to get help at the first sign that something is wrong. In order to do that, communication between you and your child or other family member must be open and healthy.