Find recovery from your eating disorder
If you are concerned that you – or a loved one – may have an eating disorder, we are here to help.
What is Anorexia?
Anorexia nervosa (also known as just anorexia) is an eating disorder characterized by an obsession over weight and food. If you have anorexia, you are likely to severely restrict your food intake in order to control your weight. You are also likely to suffer from a distorted body image, and you may even see yourself as fat even when your actual weight is dangerously low.
People with anorexia will take extreme measures to continue losing weight or avoid weight gain, such as compulsive exercise, purging food after eating by intentionally vomiting, misusing laxatives, or extreme dieting. Regardless of how much weight is actually lost, you maintain an intense fear of weight gain.
Anorexia affects approximately 1-2% of the global population and is most common among female adolescents and young adults, though it also affects men and is increasingly common among children.
Anorexia is a serious condition that can have severe complications if left untreated, including malnutrition and death. Anorexia also has significantly higher mortality rates and suicide rates than other mental disorders. With treatment, however, you can take back control of your body image and eating habits and manage the risks of living with anorexia.
What’s the Difference Between Anorexia and Bulimia?
The principal difference between anorexia and bulimia is that while a person with anorexia takes extreme measures to lose weight or avoid gaining weight, a person with bulimia employs strategies to consistently purge food from their body after an episode of binge eating by taking laxatives or making themselves throw up. People with anorexia and people with bulimia both tend to fixate on their body weight and shape and have trouble accurately assessing their body image.
Anorexia Signs and Symptoms
Early signs of anorexia are often difficult to recognize. You do not have to be underweight in order to have anorexia. While the physical signs of anorexia are related to starvation, there are typically also behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of anorexia as well.
While a low weight does not always indicate anorexia, the most common physical sign of anorexia is having a low body weight for your height, sex, and stature. Other physical signs of anorexia include significant weight loss in a short period of time (weeks or months) and extremely thin appearance (emaciation).
The behavioral signs of anorexia center around taking extreme measures to lose weight such as extreme dieting or fasting, compulsive exercise, and self-induced vomiting after eating.
The emotional signs of anorexia tend to focus on body image and self-worth, including a preoccupation with food and weight, frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat in public, and repeated weighing the body or looking in the mirror for perceived flaws.
Causes of Anorexia
While the exact cause of anorexia is unknown, it likely stems from a combination of factors spanning biology, psychology, and environment. Anorexia can begin as regular dieting that ultimately develops into extreme food restriction and unhealthy weight loss. People with anorexia tend to tie their self-worth to being thin.
Anorexia also often runs in families — children of parents that have eating disorders are significantly more likely to develop anorexia themselves. Anorexia is not caused by a lack of willpower or inability to control your behavior, and it’s a very difficult condition to control.
Anorexia Health Risks
The health risks of anorexia are very serious and primarily linked to the medical complications associated with malnutrition and starvations, which can negatively impact nearly every organ in your body. If left unmanaged, severe cases of anorexia can irreversibly damage the function of vital organs like your heart, brain, or kidneys. In the most severe cases, anorexia can cause abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or an imbalance of electrolytes that can ultimately be fatal.
Other serious long-term health risks associated with anorexia include:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Low blood sugar and seizures
- Loss of bone mass
- Delayed puberty and physical growth
- Kidney and liver damage
- Low potassium
- Cardiac arrest
- Depression and severe anxiety
- Alcohol use disorder and substance misuse
The right approach for anorexia treatment typically depends on the severity of your condition as well as your age, overall health, medical history, and other factors. In more severe cases, urgent medical care is needed to address physical health complications.
Nutrition counseling from a registered dietitian that specializes in eating disorders is a critical part of recovering and managing your anorexia. The specialized anorexia treatment team at Nourish will work with you to understand biological, psychological and social contributors to your eating disorder. First and foremost, intervention at a behavioral level is imperative to stop restricting. Secondly, your treatment team will seek to understand the psychological issues that contribute to your eating disorder and help identify and treat root causes.
At Nourish, we have a team of anorexia dietitians that specialize in working with patients at all stages of recovery and patients that have atypical anorexia. We offer nutrition counseling over telehealth and accept insurance in order to make accessing care as easy and affordable as possible. Click here to find your dietitian today and begin your recovery journey.
Binge Eating Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Binge eating disorder is often associated with symptoms of depression. There are several signs that someone might be battling with BED, including insisting on eating alone, overeating when not hungry, or eating until uncomfortably full. Episodes of binge eating are usually followed by feelings of guilt or shame, and often lead to more serious health complications.
Causes of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED) is caused by a complex combination of genetic, psychological and cultural factors. Family history, long term dieting, and a disrupted relationship with food may increase the risk of binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder sufferers often struggle with co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders, have experienced some kind of trauma, or struggle to navigate developmental milestones and life changes.
Binge Eating Disorder Health Risks
There are serious health risks associated with binge eating disorder (BED), including: Cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome as well as Sleep Disorders, GI Disorders, Pain Disorders, Menstrual Dysfunction and Pregnancy Complications. That’s why it’s important to recognize that BED is a mental health illness, not a matter of trying to exercise more self-control.
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