Essentiality of Eating food
Most of us are fond of eating food. Eating is important for our survival and provides us with essential nutrients that help to construct and maintain organs and tissues, keep warm, keep the immune system healthy and obtain energy for muscular movements. This enables the healthy functioning of our body and brain. Often the reason we eat has less to do with sustenance and more to do with taste and satisfaction.
Eating as a behaviour takes unexpected turns
However, even in the presence of savouring food items sometimes people decide on hard choices of refusing or restricting food intake. Extensive research on this increasing behaviour among adolescents led psychologists to reveal the eating disorder of anorexia nervosa. It is characterized by extremely low body weight, a strong fear of gaining weight and engaging in heavy exercising and dieting that leads to a thin appearance.
Even when the exact causes of anorexia remain unknown, researchers suggest that criticism about body shape, pressure to be slim to fit within cultural norms, similar disorder occurred in blood-relation, the personality of perfectionism or obsession could be a few in the list.
Effects of Anorexia Nervosa
- Being an anorexic can have life-threatening consequences which may even be long-term. Food deprivation has a range of immediate physical effects like dizziness, bloating, abdominal pain, insomnia, etc.
- Repeated starvation episodes lead to the weakening of the heart muscles causing poor blood circulation and/or development of heart problems like arrhythmias and hypotension. Severe anorexics experience drops in blood pressure and slower heart rate, resulting in death.
- Another common result of anorexia is anaemia, wherein the reduced production of blood cells leads to the life-threatening condition of pancytopenia. Additionally, studies have revealed nine out of ten anorexic women face menstrual irregularities that can permanently affect fertility or one’s ability to conceive.
- Furthermore, anorexics are also found to experience neurological problems. Extreme starvation causes nerve damage in different body parts. Many fMRI scans show that the anorexic brain undergoes abnormal activity thus, experiencing damage to seizures, numbness or odd-nerve sensations combined with psychological effects like anxiety, self-isolation, extreme irritability, depression etc. This contributes to assumptions of having a distorted body image and the need for strict diets.
Steps to Overcome Anorexia
According to the American Psychological Association, anorexics need immediate medical care to correct their deteriorating health.
- The primary goal of treatment involves the mental-health professionals guiding the anorexics to regularly adapt to specific meal plans for normalizing eating-behaviour patterns and weight restoration.
- Psychologists also recommend beneficial therapies such as Family-based therapy, Cognitive Behavioral therapy etc., to identify and replace distorted thoughts in anorexics that maintain restrictive eating, so he/she can make good choices about health. These therapies also help overcome barriers like considering food restriction as a lifestyle choice and the fear of gaining weight.
- Along with the treatments/guidance provided, anorexics can help themselves by firstly, setting goals that can be met such as eliminating negative thoughts, practise mindful and/or physical exercise for relaxation and getting stronger rather than just losing weight.
- Secondly, stay connected with the treatment team and update them on the mental and physical improvements experienced. Finally, reward his/her mind and body by having favourite food and wearing comfortable outfits that make one feel gorgeous.
Studies revealed that over time anorexics are effectively trained not to place a high worth on regulating their body weight and shape and face their life with confidence.