In a society that values “being skinny,” many women and a startling number of men have taken extreme measures to coax their bodies to lose significant amounts of weight.
Causes of Anorexia
As researchers continue to learn more about anorexics, they can identify some common traits and characteristics among sufferers. Many anorexics may suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain that can make them more likely to believe irrational thoughts about food and about their weight. This conditions affects females and is less common in males. It usually starts in mid teens, a most impressionable age though there doesn’t appear to be any relationship to puberty.
Researchers have also started to examine genetic links between anorexics. Though we don’t yet know whether DNA plays a role in making a person more likely to suffer from anorexia, we can often see causal links between parents and children who share this hidden, painful syndrome.
More than anything else, researchers cite constant exposure to messages that reinforce an anorexic’s already skewed vision of themselves and of the world around them. Those messages might come from movies or television shows that portray extremely underweight characters. Teens often reinforce their beliefs by expressing unhappiness with their weight among their peers. In some limited cases, parents can play a role by telling a child that they are too heavy, even when they actually maintain a healthy body mass.
Despite the source, anorexics must rely on other people to help them understand the signs of this disease and the risks this condition poses to their long-term wellness.
Signs and Symptoms
Doctors can identify anorexia from a series of symptoms that seem evident to everyone except the sufferer. For example, by the time an anorexic seeks treatment, he or she has lost a significant amount of weight. In nearly every diagnosis of anorexia, the patient scores extremely low on the Body Mass Index. Despite obvious physical signs of starvation, the patient either refuses to eat more food or they actively questions their doctor about the need to increase their daily caloric intake.
In female anorexics, the disorder causes hormonal imbalances that can cause periods to stop altogether. Frequently, the patient seeks treatment from a reproductive specialist, only to discover that they suffer from another serious ailment.
Treatments for Anorexia
Because so few medical procedures have proven themselves effective at treating anorexia, many experts recommend that sufferers and their families investigate a range of natural therapies for the condition. Unlike prescription medications, which can put patients at risk of suffering harmful side effects, these natural remedies promote general wellness and can be used without fear of further damage to the body.
Yarrow, a traditional herbal stimulant, can be mixed with tea and honey for a relaxing ritual that balances some of the chemicals that cause an anorexic to ignore hunger pains. As they enjoy the experience of reducing their stress levels, they can think a little more clearly and contemplate eating healthy foods without the outside pressure of media or misinformed peers.
Sometimes known as “poor man’s Ginseng,” codonopsis often helps anorexics restore balance to their blood streams. It can immediately bolster a patient’s immune system, which can help weakened anorexics battle colds and other illnesses. More important, codonopsis usually increases a patient’s appetite to the point where they can no longer ignore their hunger pains.
Because an anorexic has caused significant damage to his or her body, both doctors and herbalists recommend taking large doses of zinc. The zinc can provide another boost to the immune system while preventing patients from breaking their brittle bones.
Natural healers advocate the use of these and other herbal remedies in conjunction with stress reduction routines and major changes to a patient’s recreational and social activities. As part of counselling and therapy, an anorexic should purge their lives – at least temporarily – of the influences that caused them to shift their self-esteem in the first place. This might mean giving up television for a little while, or changing the group of friends that a sufferer hangs around with, especially in school settings.
Unfortunately, an anorexia sufferer often does not identify his or her own symptoms in time to take preventative steps. Because the disorder affects their thinking, sufferers often believe the extraordinary steps they take to avoid food and prevent weight gain are actually routine tasks.
Therefore, parents should prepare themselves to intervene at early stages of anorexia by eating meals with children as often as possible and monitoring food intake. Parents can also help prevent anorexic behaviour by discussing the condition with their children, so they might be more aware of the pressures that cause anorexia.
Anorexia sufferers often feel alone in their pain. If you feel you might be suffering from this challenging disorder, heed the urge to seek help from friends, family, or professional counsellors.