What is anorexia? It is an eating disorder that can affect people of all genders, backgrounds, and ages. Nearly 30 million Americans are suffering, or have suffered, from an eating disorder. There are several distinct eating disorder diagnoses, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Probably the one that is most well-known by average Americans is anorexia nervosa, as it often has visible signs, whereas others often do not. Eating disorders can cause severe health effects if left untreated, some of them lasting a lifetime. Anorexia can be challenging to treat, but the best way for someone suffering from this disorder to access a healthy future is through professional treatment.
Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC) offers eating disorder treatment in Pennsylvania. Our understanding of teen psychology, experience treating teens for addictive and obsessive behaviors, and a clinical staff specifically trained in the treatment of eating disorders make PAATC a good first step for information and treatment. Learn more by reaching out to speak to one of our staff today. You can call 844.442.8673 or use our online form.
What Is Anorexia?
Anorexia, the word, technically means “without appetite.” However, those with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa consciously control their food intake for a range of reasons.
People with anorexia nervosa often are not all the same. Some have fears about weight gain, while others restrict food intake as a way of feeling in control because they feel out of control. Most of them have a false body image—one that is misaligned with the facts. Those who struggle:
- Do not maintain a healthy or even a bare minimum body weight for height, age, and build
- Often have a distorted mental image of their body
- Often deal with a crippling fear of weight gain
- Restrict calories and food types, sometimes to an extreme
- May or may not look undernourished
If they are young at the onset of anorexia nervosa, their growth and development can be stunted. Both men and women can suffer from anorexia, but about twice as many with this diagnosis are female. It can begin in early adolescence or at any time in adulthood, and the median age is about 18.
Psychological Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
When looking for warning signs that someone you care about may be dealing with anorexia, there are behavioral signs that speak to psychological and emotional factors. Many with anorexia will take pains to hide their disorder, even if they are unaware that they are doing so. Not all of the signs below need to be present for someone to have anorexia.
- Layers clothes to both stay warm and/or hide weight loss
- Is preoccupied with measuring and/or weighing food
- Restricts diet to a few specific foods, for example, with few calories and zero carbs or fat
- Claims to not be hungry (a long-term anorexic will eventually stop feeling the body’s normal hunger alerts)
- Cooks for others but then doesn’t eat
- Compulsively exercises to extremes, regardless of circumstances
- Never wants to eat out or in public
- Expresses fear they’re gaining too much weight despite all signs to the contrary
- Powerful need to be in control
When combined with physical red flags that might indicate anorexia, it is time to seek help.
Physical Signs of Anorexia Nervosa
Some of the physical warning signs of anorexia are visible to family and friends. Still, others will only be noticed by a physician doing a complete physical. Below are some physical side effects of anorexia nervosa:
- Amenorrhea in women who’ve gone through puberty or a delay in the onset of menses due to the lack of adequate body fat to support menstruation
- Severe constipation and even intestinal blockages, often resulting in chronic use of laxatives or enemas
- Abnormal labs, for instance, showing low thyroid levels, low hormone levels, anemia, slow heart rate, low potassium, or low blood cell counts
- Dizziness or fainting
- Low body temperature or feeling cold all the time
- Growth of fine hair all over the body called lanugo
- Thinning head hair, at times extreme
- Loss of muscle strength
- Poor or slow healing of wounds
- Weakened immune response
- Weakened heart muscle
- Organ failure, in very extreme cases
If you have any concerns about someone you love suffering from anorexia nervosa, a physical with their family doctor is a first step.
Anorexia Treatment at PAATC
One of the main obstacles to getting help for someone with anorexia nervosa is that person’s resistance. Denial that there is a problem, a seeming inability to see clear warning signs like severe emaciation, gastric issues, or amenorrhea, and fear of losing control keep the sufferer from acquiescing to treatment.
That’s where PAATC comes in. Reach out to us today to talk about how you can tell that treatment is needed and how we can help ease your loved one toward acceptance that they need treatment. Reach out any time by filling out this online form or calling us at 844.442.8673.