A Quick Look At Anorexia

What is anorexia?

The following is the diagnostic criterion used by psychologists for defining anorexia:

  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth)
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
  • In postmenarcheal females (after first period but before menopause), amenorrhea (the absence of at least 3 consecutive menstrual cycles).

There are 2 further divisions of anorexia:

  • Restrictive: No bing-eating or purging (self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas) during current episode
  • Binge-Eating/Purging: Person has engaged in binge-eating or purging during current episode.


Who gets anorexia?

Low self esteem is the common feature of psychological eating disorders. Often the eating disorder is a reaction to stress, anxiety, or other events in the persons environment. Anorexia is a dysfunctional coping mechanism for the emotions which result in the eating-disorder behavior.

The person suffering with anorexia may be abnormally sensitive about being perceived as fat. By controlling their eating and through excessive dieting they may be attempting to react to other problems. Some feel that they do not deserve pleasure from life and will deprive themselves of food and other situations which are pleasurable. Anorexics often have a history of obesity in childhood.

Signs of anorexia

Some behavioral signs can be obsessive exercise, calorie counting, starvation, self-induced vomiting, use of diet pills, laxative use, or diuretic use to control weight. Anorexia may be seen with depression. Sometimes anorexia is seen with abuse survivors. Despite emaciation, these patients deny hunger, thinness, or fatigue. In advanced cases a fine hair (lanugo hair) may be seen over the body. Edema (swelling in legs or body) is common. Bradycardia (slow heart rate less than 60 bpm) may occur.

Here are a few places to look at for more info and treatment for anorexia:

Canada – Canadian Mental Health Association page of finding help for eating disorders

USA – A program for eating disorder treatment in Portland, OR

UK – National Health Service (UK) website for anorexia treatment

Anorexia Athletica

What is it? Excessive exercise may be a form a purging. Exercise can be an outlet behavior in response to guilt or anxiety. In moderate amounts exercise can be a successful coping mechanism for limited psychological problems. However, when compulsive, the exercise may go beyond what is physically safe. Taking off work or cutting school to exercise may be a sign of excessive exercise and may be a sign of deeper tremendous guilt.

The athletic achievements do not yield satisfaction when associated with this form of eating disorder. Sufferers of this type may use their athletic behavior to gain praise from athletic coaches, but do not gain satisfaction from their activity and are actually hiding their guilt and eating problems.

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