While people with anorexia often deny having a problem, the truth is that anorexia is a serious and potentially deadly eating disorder. Fortunately, recovery is possible. With proper treatment and support, you or someone you care about can break anorexia’s self-destructive pattern and regain your health and happiness.
What is anorexia nervosa?Anorexia nervosa is characterized by an irrational dread of becoming fat coupled with a relentless pursuit of thinness. People with anorexia go to extremes to reach and maintain a dangerously low body weight. But no matter how much weight is lost, no matter how emaciated they become, it’s never enough. The more the scale dips, the more obsessed they become with food, dieting, and weight loss.
The key features of anorexia nervosa are:
- Refusal to sustain a minimally normal body weight
- Intense fear of gaining weight, despite being underweight
- Distorted view of one’s body or weight, or denial of the dangers of one’s low weight
Anorexia is most common in adolescent girls and young women, with a typical age of onset between the ages of 13 and 20. But people of all ages—including men and children—can suffer from anorexia.
The difference between dieting and anorexiaEating disorders, including anorexia, often begin with normal dieting. A person may start dieting and exercising to get in shape, but as the pounds come off, a desire to lose even more weight is triggered. This cycle continues until the person almost completely stops eating.
Many factors influence this destructive progression from healthy dieting to full-blown anorexia. For many anorexics, self-starvation is a way to feel in control. People with anorexia may feel powerless in their everyday lives, but they can control what they eat. Restricting food is a way to cope with painful feelings such as anger, shame, and self-loathing. Saying “no” to food, getting the best of hunger, and controlling the number on the scale make them feel strong and successful—at least for a short while.
Unfortunately, this boost to self-esteem is short-lived. Anorexics believe that their lives will be better—that they’ll finally feel good about themselves—if they lose more weight. But no amount of dieting or weight loss can repair the negative self-image at the heart of anorexia. In the end, anorexia only leads to greater emotional pain, isolation, and physical damage.
Is it a Diet or Anorexia?
|Weight loss is viewed as a way to improve health and appearance.||Weight loss is viewed as a way to achieve happiness.|
|Self-esteem is based on more than just weight and body image.||Self-esteem is based entirely on how much you weigh and how thin you are.|
|Is an attempt to control weight||Is an attempt to control your life and emotions|
|The goal is to lose weight in a healthy way||Becoming thin is all that matters; health is not a concern.|