We explain what anorexia is, what its symptoms, causes and consequences are. In addition, its characteristics and differences with bulimia.
What is anorexia?
Anorexia is an eating behavior disorder characterized by low food consumption, which causes accelerated weight loss. This restriction is caused by a distorted perception of one ‘s own body, its image and its weight, and the fantasy that the discomfort will disappear as a result of losing weight.
Although it currently mainly affects women , it is a disease that can occur in both men and women and usually begins at puberty and can be sustained throughout life.
The complications of anorexia develop both in the patient’s psyche and in his body, since the lack of food causes states of starvation that affect the entire organism.
Anorexia can be:
- restrictive anorexia . The patient restricts his food intake. This behavior may be accompanied by excessive physical exercise .
- Purged . The patient seeks weight loss through vomiting or laxatives.
Symptoms of anorexia
Some of the main symptoms of anorexia are:
Abrupt and significant weight loss is usually one of the main symptoms of anorexia. However, since weight loss can occur for multiple reasons, to consider it as a sign of anorexia it is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- endocrine problems
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Hair loss
- Fainting and dizziness
- Dry and pale skin
- delayed puberty
- Low sexual desire
- Constant cold feeling
- Yellowing of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
Even before the physical symptoms appear, the social and family environment of the person suffering from anorexia can identify certain signs that are expressed in their behavior. These might be:
- Excessive concern about the caloric content of food.
- Distorted perception of one’s own body.
- states of hyperactivity.
- Repeated and frequent control of one’s own weight.
- No food intake and excuses for not doing it.
- Skipping meals.
- Denial of own weight.
- Consumption of diets that reduce the intake of certain foods.
- Social isolation.
- Excessive fear of weight gain.
- Feelings of guilt and frustration.
- Excessive physical exercise.
- Low self-esteem.
Causes of anorexia
The causes of anorexia are multiple, so it is a disease that can be rooted in psychological , environmental or social causes, which depend on each particular case.
On many occasions, the cause comes from the social environment of the person suffering from the disease. Difficulties in communication and expression of emotions within a family can lead one of the members to express themselves through the suffering of her body.
In other cases, the cause may lie in repeated attacks on the patient’s self-esteem , both by their family and their social environment. To this can be added environments in which special attention is paid to physical image and that are part of a culture that imposes a standardized and ideal body model.
It has been observed in many patients that in addition to social causes there is a prior predisposition for the onset of the disease. This predisposition is associated with personality characteristics such as perfectionism, an obsessive personality, and low self-esteem. In addition, eating disorders can be a consequence and aroused by emotional disorders of the person, life experiences, inherited customs or childhood situations.
Consequences of anorexia
Anorexia is a disease that has consequences on the physical organism, since the body does not receive the necessary nutrients for its proper functioning , which puts the life of the individual at risk. In addition, it affects the psychological, emotional and social aspect of the person.
Some of the main consequences are:
- Reduction of cardiac pulsations.
- Arrhythmias that can lead to cardiac arrest.
- Increased cholesterol.
- Decrease in muscle mass.
- low blood pressure
- Decreased bone mass, which in children and adolescents can slow down growth.
- Decreased intestinal motility.
- Skin dehydration.
- Osteopenia and osteoporosis.
- Bloating and abdominal pain.
Prevention and treatment of anorexia
Since anorexia usually begins between the years before adolescence , family members can take preventive actions. To prevent the disease, some tips are: avoid bad eating habits, have a balanced diet and try to get teenagers to eat together. In addition, encouraging communication between family members makes it easier for adolescents to express their concerns and prevents them from expressing them through an eating disorder.
Anorexia is a disease that can be treated and even cured. Timely treatment is of the utmost importance, since the consequences of this pathology are serious and affect various aspects of the individual. In many cases, an outpatient treatment is carried out, which does not exclude the patient from their social and affective environment and which requires the intervention of various professionals, such as nutritionists, psychologists and psychiatrists, who deal with the psychophysical aspects of the patient.
In other cases, treatment with hospitalization in a medical center may be indicated when the severity of the malnutrition affected vital signs, family relationships are harmful and it is necessary to isolate the patient or the psychic disorders associated with the disease worsen. This type of treatment allows an interdisciplinary intervention that involves both physical and psychological aspects of the patient.
Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the individual expresses a concern for their physical appearance and a distorted perception of the body.
In the same way that occurs in certain types of anorexia, in bulimia there are attempts to eliminate excess food through vomiting or laxatives.
However, the characteristic of bulimia is that these purging behaviors are preceded by an excessive and accelerated consumption of food (“binge eating”) and a subsequent moment of regret and shame.
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