The side effects of anorexia can linger through the rest of a person's life. During the teen years, the body grows rapidly. People with anorexia, even those who are successfully treated, run the risk of developing chronic illnesses that can cut their life expectancy.
The Psychology of Anorexia
Anorexics attempt to control their hunger through sheer willpower. Food is their enemy. They develop strict diet requirements and frequently engage in excessive exercise or use laxatives to control their weight.
The disease takes a huge psychological toll on the patient. Anorexics often suffer from a massive loss of self-esteem or self-confidence; they become convinced their weight makes them ugly or unlovable. They believe the only way they will become lovable is to lose weight.
They feel they are powerless, ineffective and out of control. To correct those feelings, they strictly control their diet. Some anorexics eat only fruit, drink liquid meals or eat only purple food. These things help them feel in control. Even after recovery these feelings can persist. Anorexia therapy doesn't end with convincing a person to eat; it must get to the roots of the psychological issues and provide coping mechanisms so that patients don't resort to other negative behaviors later in life.
Physical Effects of Anorexia
The limited number of calories consumed leads to mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression. It can also lead to a feeling of loneliness. The shame associated with the diagnosis can linger even after recovery. The lack of nutrients also causes a loss of concentration and the inability to think rationally.
The nature of the disease causes the patient to withdraw from others. Those suffering from anorexia become fixated on food. They do not want their diet to be criticized so they are reluctant to be in situations where they might have to eat with others.
The toll on the body is great. Along with fatigue comes a general loss of energy. While energy levels may return once normal eating habits are resumed, reduced energy or stamina can linger.
Problems such as hypotension, or low blood pressure; lanugo, a change in body hair with fine hair growth on the body, or hair loss persist after recovery.
Some of the more dangerous side effects of anorexia are parathesia, a pins and needles sensation; brittle nails and bones; osteoporosis; anemia; ulcers; cramps; easy bruising and an inability to tolerate cold temperatures.
Organs can swell due to electrolyte imbalances. Girls may experience a loss of menstruation. The thyroid can malfunction and there is a chance of kidney failure or liver failure.
Anorexia in teenagers and adults can lead to irregular secretion of growth hormones. Even if the anorexia is successfully treated, growth may be stunted.
Many of the long-term health effects are caused by years of nutritional imbalance. Treating anorexia early can prevent some of these problems from occurring. That's why it's essential to get help immediately if you think a child or a friend is caught in anorexia's grip.
Learning how to treat anorexia begins with an understanding that the disease is psychological in nature. Constant, loving support is required to break the mental barriers that keep anorexics from building a healthy relationship with food.
Anorexia nervosa, commonly referred to simply as anorexia, is one type of eating disorder. More importantly, it is also a psychological disorder. Anorexia is a condition that goes beyond out-of-control dieting.