Anorexia Nervosa


     Turn
on any television show or look through any teen magazine, and what do you
usually see? You will probably notice at least one ad for a food product that is
being eaten by happy and good looking people. What is the message being sent to
our adolescents today? Is it better to eat good food or be thin like a model?

This is a hard choice that teenage girls have to face everyday. Most people
believe that thinner is better. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that
usually strikes women. The term anorexia means "loss of appetite". Of the 7
million women from age 15 to 35 who have an eating disorder, many will die from
the complications of anorexia. They suffer from eating disorders because of
anger, depression, and the wish to be thin. Teens that control their body weight
gives them a sense of control in their lives. Someone that suffers from an
eating disorder is a person that uses food to work out emotional problems and
tries to get rid of feelings by eating or dieting. But what influences dieting
in the first place? Psychological influences and genetics are the main
influences on eating disorders in general. Mothers of anorexics are themselves
focused on their own weight and appearance. Woman struggle to make their bodies
conform to the ideal female body and appearance. Anorexia nervosa is defined as
a disorder in which a person becomes noticeably underweight, yet feels fat and
fears becoming obese. Of all anorexics, 95% of them are women under twenty. This
usually begins as a weight-loss diet and develops in adolescence. Anorexics
never believe that they are thin enough and they limit their intake of food.

They see themselves as "too fat", no amount of food is small enough, and no
weight is ever low enough. By starving themselves, it helps them deal with
normal pressures of life as a teenage girl in society. They begin to pull away
from those around them even before the disorder begins. The pattern of
withdrawal makes it difficult for others to realize the disorder. Generally, an
observation of physical symptoms will quickly confirm the diagnosis of anorexia.

These symptoms are identical to starvation. Signs of anorexia include weight
loss, loss of appetite, menstrual period stops, seeing food as an enemy,
continual exercise, and the fear of gaining weight. The physical signs of
anorexia include dizziness, insomnia, numbness in hands and feet, infections
that do not heal, heart failure, and bruises. Anorexia can lead to severe
medical problems and even death. At this time, there is no treatment program for
anorexia nervosa that is completely effective. There is no single personality
type of a person suffering from anorexia nervosa. People who develop anorexia
tend to share certain characteristics. Their parents often describe them as
model children, high achievers who have never once been in trouble. They are
perfectionists; they tend to be self critical. They also tend to be very
controlled people who stick to certain schedules and do not like changes in
routines. Most anorexics deny that they suffer from an eating disorder. The
first step to getting help with an eating disorder is to recognize that the
problem exists. Know that you have a problem and that you need to get help to
solve the problem. There are many ways to get help. By telling a friend, it
makes the problem seem more manageable and you know that there is someone that
will help guide you through the process of recovery. Support groups devoted to
eating disorders are available all over the country. They are groups of people
that share the same problem that you have and is led by an experienced counselor
or person who once had the problem and has recovered. By attending a support
group, it lets the person know that he or she is not alone and people are their
to help them recover completely. Counseling is also available through school or
a local social-service agency. A counselor is there to listen to your problem
and help you get through it. One last way to get help with an eating disorder is
to see a nutritionist. That person can help identify food allergies, cravings,
and other problems that may contribute to eating disorders. He or she can help
you develop a diet that will feel satisfying while helping the person to gain or
lose weight. Seeking help may be a painful experience for the anorexic. He or
she must face problems and feelings that have been avoided for a long period of
time. But best of all, acknowledging an eating disorder and committing himself
or herself to overcoming it means that he or she can look forward to the day
when food is not longer a terrifying temptation or a secret, it is just another
enjoyable and satisfying part of life.