10 Things you need to know about anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that many people have heard of, but few of us really know that much about. What we do know, we have probably learned from the press and the stories that we have read about celebrities that have eating disorders, but the problem of eating disorders is a much bigger one than most people realise. It’s a disturbing fact that an estimated 10 million girls and women suffer from an eating disorder, but only 1 in 10 will ever seek treatment. Here are ten facts about anorexia that everyone needs to know.

1. Anyone can suffer with anorexia

Many people believe that anorexia is a disease that only young women suffer with but absolutely any person, of any age, can suffer from eating disorders. Although the majority of people with eating disorders are women, the number of men is on the increase and there have been reports of people suffering from anorexia form as early on as the age of eight years old, right the way through to people in their eighties.

2. There are two types of anorexia

There are two types of anorexia. The first is called restricting, which refers to a person who loses weight by not eating enough and taking extreme exercise and the second type of anorexia is the purging type of anorexia, where a person will make themselves vomit, or take laxatives, to achieve weight loss.

3. Anorexics have an unrealistic body image

People with anorexia see themselves as being fat, when in reality they could be very thin. They have an absolute fear of putting on any weight and, if they were to be asked to draw a picture of themselves; it is quite likely that they would draw themselves as being overweight.

4. A person with anorexia can appear to have no problem at all

It is not always easy to tell that a person has an eating disorder. They may go out of their way to hide their appearance by wearing baggy clothes and pretend that they are eating more than they really are. They can appear to be people who have got their lives fully under control, and anorexia often suffered by high achievers and perfectionists. Underneath, though, the anorexic is constantly worrying about their eating and obsessing over their weight.

5. Anorexia should never be ignored

Anorexia is not a passing phase that someone will grow out of; it is a serious illness that can cause serious physiological and physical damage to a person. Most people need proper medical help to recover from anorexia; it’s not something that they can easily conquer alone.

6. The causes of eating disorders are very complex

The issues that people have with their eating and their body image issues are only the tip of the iceberg, and the underlying problems that cause the eating disorder can be many and complex. Anorexia and other eating disorders can be brought on by genetic, social and cultural influences; stress and depression are also often factors too.

7. Cultural factors do play a big part in eating disorders

In countries where a slim figure and dieting is the norm, eating disorders are more prevalent. The false impression of the ‘perfect body’, that is shown in advertisements and on the fashion runways does play a part in the illness. In fact, as globalisation widens the market for this type of advertising, researchers are finding that the incidence of eating disorders is now increasing in other, non-western, countries.

8. How can you tell if you are anorexic?

A person who is anorexic bases their self-esteem wholly on their body image and their weight. They are likely to think that they are overweight, even though all their friends assure them that they are not. They feel more in control of their life when they feel that they are controlling their eating and they will often hide their eating habits, or their purging, from friends and family. There is a big difference between dieting and being anorexic. When you diet, you do it because you want to control your weight, but when you are anorexic, your weight is the only thing that matters to you. It is absolutely your number one priority in life.

9. You shouldn’t pressurise someone you think may have anorexia

You should never try and pressurise someone who you think may have anorexia, because they will probably already be suffering from very low self-esteem. They probably feel a sense of shame and are embarrassed by the situation that they are in and the last thing they need is for someone to try and bully them into eating or taking less exercise.

10. How you can help someone with anorexia?

In the first instance, the best thing that you can do for someone who you suspect has anorexia is to let them know that you are there for them and that you are prepared to listen. They will be defensive and deny that they have a problem. The most important thing that you can do is to encourage the person to seek proper help with the problem.

Stay happy and healthy!

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