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Symptoms and treatment of anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is a clinical eating disorder characterized by severe control of eating leading to a starvation-like state. Anorexia nervosa, like other eating disorders, typically arises out of feelings of unhappiness with one's body, a belief that being thin increases their personal value and a compulsion to count calories and exercise excessively. It can be very severe for those with the disorder, because such a restricted food intake greatly reduces the body's ability to function normally.

Some of the red flags for anorexia are:

  • Fanaticism about weight and being thin
  • Seeing self as fat even if normal or underweight
  • Denying hunger
  • Unhealthy adoration of unrealistic media figures (e.g., supermodels)
  • Unnecessary dieting

Some of the symptoms of someone who is suffering from anorexia are:

  • Rapid unexplainable weight loss
  • Thinning or loss of hair
  • Yellowing of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Bloated feelings
  • Irregular menstrual periods

There is also another disorder called Anorexia athletica which involves an obsessive dedication to exercising. While not clinically recognized, this type of anorexia can still be dangerous to one's physical and psychological health, as people with the condition push their body to expend far more energy than it receives from their diet.

Where to Find Information on Anorexia

Information on anorexia is widely available through family doctors and national eating disorder organizations. You can also find some information online. Anorexia statistics show that thousands of people die each year from anorexia, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders, and yet it is a continuing problem. For those who think they or someone they know is suffering from the disorder, it's always important to seek medical help. Physicians and pediatricians have contact with a number of organizations and medical specialists (including counselors and nutritionists) who can work with people with eating disorders to get both their lives and eating habits back on track.

Pro Anorexia

Part of the difficulty in working to reduce the number of people who become anorexic is the emergence of "pro anorexia" groups. These groups form a large and rapidly-growing community of people who support each other in their quest for weight "perfection." These "pro-ana" individuals (as they call themselves) often congratulate themselves for their low calorie counts, abide by commandments such as "thou shall not eat without feeling guilty," and post pictures of ultra-thin supermodels as their idols.

The media and society as a whole has their share of the blame in the persistence of eating disorders as they continue to promote unrealistic images of beauty through movie and television stars. One of the most important things you can do as an individual is to love your friends and family for who they are and avoid falling victim to the pressure to be thin.

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