The anorexic girl is typically in her teens or early twenties, although anorexia can occur earlier or later in life. There are more anorexic women than men; only 10% of all anorexics are men.
It is not certain why women are more likely to develop anorexia than men. It has been suggested that the media has a lot to do with it. Women in the media tend to be unrealistically thin. In fact, many dancers, actresses, and models suffer from anorexia themselves.
Men, on the other hand, are not bombarded with images of thin men. Men in the media are of a more realistic weight.
This is just one theory, though. It hasn’t been proven. In fact, it would be quite difficult to prove one way or another.
While anorexic teens and adults face many of the same challenges, there are also differences in the way the disease manifests itself. Let’s take a look.
The Teenage Anorexic Girl
The teenage anorexic girl faces some unique challenges. To begin with, teens are easily swayed by peer pressure to be thin. They are also more easily influenced by media images of very thin women.
People with anorexia frequently restrict food as a way of coping with anxiety. Controlling their food intake helps them feel in control in what may be a chaotic situation. However, teens have fewer coping skills than adult anorexic women. Therefore they are more likely to use food as a way to deal with uncomfortable emotions.
A teen anorexic girl is also likely to be thinner than adult anorexic women to begin with. Add to that the fact that teens are still developing physically. They have less weight to lose and still be healthy. Anorexia can also stunt their development.
Most anorexics have difficulty maintaining relationships with others. They often withdraw from social situations, especially those involving food. They also wish to avoid people who may question them about their weight or how much they eat. Social interactions are important for anyone, but they are especially important for teens.
Teens are supposed to be learning how to interact with others. It can also be painful not to have friends at this age, even though the teen prefers to avoid social situations.
If anorexic teens are lucky, their parents will notice that something is wrong and take steps to get them help. In many cases, however, parents ignore or deny the problem. They may deny the problem even if approached by teachers, guidance counselors, or others that are concerned.
This denial may be understandable; parents want their children do be OK. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerous, even deadly.
Women anorexics face some of the same challenges as adolescent anorexic girls, but they also face challenges of their own. They may have developed anorexia as teens, meaning that their disease is more advanced than that of an adolescent anorexic girl.
If their disease is more advanced, then anorexic women face a number of serious health risks. They are subject to liver and kidney disease, and cardiac arrest due to a weakened heart muscle. These illnesses take time to develop, so the teenager may not have developed them yet.
The anorexic women may also become infertile. This is not always a concern for a teenage girl, but it often is for adults.
Like teens, adult anorexics often avoid social interactions. This can damage marriage and family relationships. It also deprives them of support of others, and reduces the likelihood of someone noticing the disorder and encouraging them to seek help.