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What is Anorexiz Nervosa



   The discussion will be on an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa,  that  is
a huge concern of our society.  It is an eating disorder that is  caused  by
a complex  mixture  of  social,  psychological  and  physical  problems  and
consists of various conditions that involve an obsession with  food,  weight
and appearance to the degree where  a  persons  health,  relationships  and
usual everyday activities are threatened to fail.
     The statistics  are  dramatic.  Anorexia  has  become  more  common  in
developing countries in the past 20 years. 50% of Anorexics  recover  fully,
another 20% only recover physically and the reported mortality rate is  20%.
Each year, approximately one out of every  200  females  adolescents  become
anorexic.  About 90-95% of all people who suffer from Anorexia  Nervosa  are
females. The most vulnerable to this  eating  disorder  are  the  ambitious,
achieving girls between the ages of 12 and 25.  However,  in  industrialized
countries, the condition is becoming more prevalent in all  age  groups  and
both sexes . The main trait of anorexia is when body  weight  is  more  then
15% lower then the expected one. It is caused  by  fear  of  gaining  weight
that embraces excessive preoccupation with food and abnormal eating  habits.

     Basically, it is an addiction that results  in  successive  changes  in
mind and body. The progression of  these  changes  follows  an  orderly  and
predictable path  from  health  to  mental  and  physical  devastation.  The
addiction that we are talking about is a result of self-starvation  process.
This means that during that process a group of substances called  endorphins
is produced by the body that is very addictive. These substances play  major
role in causing the behavioral and mental  changes  characteristic  to  this
condition and are responsible for  perpetuating  and  maintaining  anorectic
behavior throughout all stages of addictive process.
  The addiction concept of Anorexia Nervosa is made up of 2 principles:  One
states that much of the anorexics actions like  behavior  and  thinking  are
governed by the mechanism of reward. That is a person  will  self-administer
by engaging in such behavior whereas  a  non-addictive  substance  will  not
cause a person to automatically continue  self-administration  in  order  to
get some  pleasant  experience.  The  second  is  that  there  is  a  direct
causative relationship between the state of eating and  the  state  of  mood
and feelings. Which means that non-eating and weight loss  promote  a  sense
of well-being or improvement of depressed mood via release of endorphins.
     Two types of  Anorexia  Nervosa  are  recognized:  first  is  a  simple
restriction of food. People usually starve  themselves  despite  the  hunger
pains that they suffer. The second type includes  restriction  of  food  and
either regular purging or binging and purging together. It is done by  means
of laxatives, appetite suppressants or even self-induced vomiting.
     The distinguishing dietetic trends are consumption  of  low-fat  foods,
vegetarianism and avoidance of all the sweet  products.  Moreover,  dramatic
reduction in caloric intake takes place that is many times accentuated by  a
significant increase in activity. Often an aversion to foods  is  developed.
Such eating behavior is a cause of severe lack  of  macronutrients  such  as
fats, proteins and carbohydrates as well as minerals and vitamins that  make
it impossible for an organism to maintain itself in good health.
     Anorexia Nervosa  also  falls  into  a  category  of  mental  illnesses
because it has been found that this condition is many times  accompanied  by
other mental illness. Common for all the anorexics is that food becomes  the
main object of their lives and it makes them feel as if  it  was  impossible
to live without it. Food becomes a dominant in  all  the  daily  regulations
and judgments. And unlike other eating disorders suffering from anorexia  do
not consider their weight loss and restricted eating as problematic  and  no
matter how much they weight, the  feeling  of  being  overly  fat  will  not
abandon them.
     Anorexia Nervosa consists of various stages. First is  the  Early  Loss
Phase where a series of physical and  mental  changes  occur  as  adaptation
change to promote survival. Then it is followed by an Advanced  Weight  Loss
Phase. It begins when a person reaches the desired weight but is  unable  to
stop dieting due to the addictive function of endorphins.  Brain  dependency
takes place, judgdements become less perceptive  and  objective.  The  third
phase is the Burn-out Phase. Here the tolerance can no longer  be  overcomed
by an individual. During this phase an anorectic feels the  return  of  some
anxiety and depression because a person finds out that she or  he  does  not
cope as well as did in the previous phases.  Also  because  the  feeling  is
worth, the addicted side of the anorectics mind makes every effort to  lock
in a view of herself/himself that is in favor of self-starvation. Just  like
other addicts, the anorectic has to hit the proverbial bottom before  change
is truly possible and has a reasonable chance to last. The anorectic has  to
experience the power of the addiction even without being  aware  of  it.  No
reasoning  or  threatening  has  anywhere  near  as  much  effect   on   the
anorectics attitude as the painful experience  of  being  consumed  by  the
addiction, only to find out in the end that she has been wreckled by it  and
has received nothing in return. At this  point  anorexics  may  give  in  to
urging of their parents or friends and agree to seek professional help
     So what are the main forces that make people loose control  over  ones
lives? Anorexia Nervosa is a  very  complex  disease  and  wide  variety  of
reasons underlie it however despite that that most  specialists  agree  that
dieting is the basic entry line for entering the disorder.
     Anorexics themselves can be divided into two groups: first  consist  of
those that have concerns related to their weight.  Under  the  second  group
fall those people  that  have  problematic  relationship  with  oneself  and
others. The disorder is further complicated when  braided  with  the  social
demand that put great emphasis on appearance and thinness. But generally  it
is  nothing  but  the  outcome  of  chronically  depressed  mood   and   the
constitutional inability to maintain an internal equilibrium.
     It is known that Anorexia nervosa affects both  males  and  females  of
different age groups  and  ethical  and  racial  backgrounds.  However  some
tendencies do appear. Anorexia more often affects women.  Men  are  affected
less partly because it is believed that it isnt suitable for a man that  is
not a gay to be over  concerned  with  his  body.  The  greater  disposition
towards Anorexia Nervosa in women can easily be reasoned. It is  commonplace
that all the women magazines usually have ten times as  many  advertisements
and articles on  weight  loss  as  mans  do.  This  happens  because  every
magazine tries to satisfy the readers  demand.  By  doing  that  they  make
females bring back thoughts about their weight over and over again. And  the
main reason for such interest towards dieting is that  now  more  then  ever
mankind  is  bombarded  by  thousands  of  images  of  young  beautiful  and
extremely  thin  models  smiling  from  everywhere:  TV-screens,  press  and
publicity boards. This fact is also directly  correlated  to  the  increased
demand on books and articles describing the diets  and  exercise  strategies
of these ideal girls and makes women believe  that  each  one  of  them  can
achieve such thinness on a cost of a bit of suffering. Women may also  start
correlating models  success  to  their  slim  bodies.  These  thoughts  may
mislead them into the idea that without it  is  impossible  to  achieve  the
desired success. The models surrounding us (in press, television  and  other
sources) also create strong associations of beautiful  as  inseparable  from
thin that is another reason of  wanting  to  achieve  these  extremely  thin
     Anorexia may also result from low self-esteem  in  attempts  to  obtain
external validation by trying to match unrealistic media image. It  is  most
often expressed in people  who  are  perfectionists,  have  difficulties  in
handling stress situations or in those that possess distort body  image  and
are constantly preoccupied with weight, body size and shape.
     Anorexia may be triggered  from  a  simple  remark  of  another  person
towards  an  individual  with  low  self-confidence.  Or  the  psychological
situation might be  adversely  affected  by  loss  of  a  loved  one.  These
situations may distort naturally weak psychological balance  giving  a  push
towards this eating disorder.
     Moreover, correlation has been established between emotional,  physical
and sexual abuse. And since females are abused more often then  males,  this
fact serves as another reason that explains the higher percentage  of  cases
among women than men.
     Another major source of Anorexia Nervosa lies in sports that put  great
emphasis  on  weight  and  appearance.   The   examples   are:   gymnastics,
bodybuilding, ballet  and  distance  running.  In  these  cases  competition
stands out as the main engine that generates the eating disorder.
     In addition to all the above mentioned, Anorexia nervosa may have  age-
related origins. When young people during their  puberty  period  experience
many natural body changes. They are  often  perceived  as  uncontrolled  and
undesirable and excessive dieting may be seen as a  mean  of  bringing  back
the control that leads to development Anorexia Nervosa.  And  on  the  other
extreme  when  women  get  older  life  changes  and  other  problems  start
triggering the danger of falling into this  eating  disorder.  For  most  of
them it is the stress of middle life such as menopause, conflict  about  sex
and social pressure that demands from women to stay young or otherwise  will
be displace by a younger rival either in her social or personal life.
     Some cases of young people may result from excessive attempt  of  their
parents to control their childs weight. Usually the expected effect is  not
achieved, instead that makes teenagers  doubt  about  their  appearance  and
disturb the self-esteem that is often based on the parents approval.
     At last, few cases have been reported where eating  disorders  occurred
in various generations  within  a  family  that  suggests  us  that  genetic
prepossession does play an important role in occurrence Anorexia Nervosa.
     All the above-mentioned factors act on a person  making  him/her  loose
control over dieting, that finally result in Anorexia Nervosa.  This  eating
disorder has many adverse consequences as ones body, psychology and  social
life. First of all bodys regulatory  mechanisms  are  seriously  disturbed.
And the longer behavior persists worth are the consequences  and  harder  it
is to give up the addiction. Anorexia Nervosa is a disease  of  malnutrition
with  severe  after-effects.  Particularly  lack  of  proteins   can   cause
cannibalism of an organism (auto digestion). Osteoporosis is  very  likely
to occur under these circumstances. Insufficient  fat  intake  is  the  main
cause of poor absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. General
effects  experienced  by  anorexics  are  sensitivity  to  cold  and   heat,
headaches,  fatigue,  weakness  and  fainting.  Once  it  gets  to  physical
complications the heart, the blood pressure,  the  gastrointestinal  system,
teeth and gums, lever and kidney can all be affected.  Various  difficulties
with concentration and thinking may also be experienced.  Usually  anorexics
perceive distorted surrounding situation and can not evaluate  it  well.  On
the social level the sense of  isolation  causes  families  to  fall  apart,
serves as barrier for good schooling, destroys even very  promising  careers
and most relationships. The disorder is often accompanied by  amenorrhea  or
by a decrease in sexual drive and interest in males.
     To recover the anorectics inevitably will have to go through a  period
of time during which a person will feel more depression and  anxiety  as  he
or she gives up the beneficial  effect  of  endorphins  by  gaining  weight
(Huebner 78). But the good thing about this  eating  disorder  is  that  the
process can be reversed by normalizing the intake of nutrients,  fluids  and
caloric intake as well as vitamins and minerals that are all  essential  for
proper body functioning. But in most cases  multy-disciplinary  approach  is
required that involve various specialists.  Simple  medication  intake  will
not help since Anorexia Nervosa is a result of  combination  of  bio-psycho-
social factors. Psychotherapists would guide patients  and  support  him/her
emotionally. Nutritionists would  teach  to  patient  new  eating  patterns.
While  other  doctors  will  help  in  dealing   with   all   the   physical
     Living with someone who suffers from  Anorexia  Nervosa  can  be  very
difficult,  as  the  sufferers  behavior  may  seem  to   be   deliberately
provocative and selfish  (Treasure 11).   Doctors,  friends  and  relatives
all have to be comprehensible, chary and respondent  since  they  all  share
equally important pat in ones recovery. Feeling of helplessness  on  seeing
someone acting in such a destructive way and not  being  able  to  help,  is
common among the people that surround anorexics. However instead  of  giving
up they all have to stay positive,  provide  with  financial  and  emotional
support and read a lot of information on the disease. This information  will
always be  useful  to  these  people  in  order  to  understand  better  the
suffering person and to be able to convince him or  her  of  the  mistakable
behavior by providing a person with new hitting facts.
     Anorexia nervosa is a very  complex  disease  that  can  affect  almost
anyone of us when  influenced  by  certain  surrounding  us  situations.  It
occurs when someone looses control over dieting and  becomes  obsessed  with
food, weight, body size  and  shape.  The  main  triggering  factor  is  our
society that promotes thinness and puts excessive  emphasis  on  appearance.
This makes people want to conform to  unrealistically  thin  models  and  in
order to slim down fall  on  track  of  starvation.  In  this  process  body
releases endorphins that cause the addiction. Some will recover fully,  some
will stay marked forever by Anorexia Nervosa, and others will die. Lets  not
permit this and stop ourselves, our friend, relative  or  any  other  person
before it is to late.

Works sited:

 1.Huebner, Hans F., M.D. Endorphins, Eating Disorders and Other Addictive
    United State of America: Hans Huebner, 1993

2.Treasure, Janet. ANOREXIA NERVOSA:A Survival Guide for Families, Friends,
and Sufferers.
    Essex: Psychology Press Ltd, 1997

3.Youngson, Dr Robert. Encyclopedia of Family Health.
    London: Dr R.M. Youngson, 1995

4.Zimbardo, Philip G., and Gerrig, Richard J. Psychology and Life.
     United States: Philip G. Zimbardo, Inc., and Richard J. Gerrig, 1999


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