Of all the eating disorders, anorexia nervosa is the deadliest. It can cause permanent damage to the body in a mere six months, and its very nature makes it hard to spot. Anorexics take significant measures to conceal their condition, often requiring outside forces or influence to get them to seek treatment.
A Deadly Secret
Anorexia is deadly — both in its effects and the hidden nature of the condition. It can go from months to years without being detected, all the while wreaking havoc on the body of its victim. Compared to most people suffering from eating disorders, anorexics have the highest chance of dying. People who suffer from anorexia will often pursue excessive weight loss through diet, constant exercise, diuretics, laxatives, and even enemas.
If they are forced to eat in a social situation or with family, they may resort to purging or self-induced vomiting. Anorexia will often lead to severe malnutrition, leading to a host of serious complications. Minor problems can include electrolyte imbalance, lethargy from low blood sugar levels, and gastrointestinal issues. Once anorexia progresses undetected for weeks, severe issues can develop, including heart, kidney, and liver problems.
Heeding the Warning Signs
Anorexia usually affects women aged 13-21. Affected individuals will regularly exhibit firm control over the personal aspect of their lives and limit social interactions where their condition might get revealed. Tell-tale signs can include frequent skipping of meals, obsession over one’s weight, constant and excessive exercise, wearing layered clothing, making excuses for having eaten before the engagement, counting calories, and distorted body image.
If the anorexia has progressed for several months, you may notice bruising, hair loss, pallid skin, lethargy, swollen glands, and dizziness. Don’t hesitate to talk to your friend or loved one once you see signs of anorexia, but know that she would probably do her utmost to deny the condition.
When Treatment Is Inevitable
Almost all cases of anorexia nervosa require intensive treatment and recovery. Aside from the psychological aspect of the condition, addressing the existing health condition of the patient is also essential in treating it. Most patients suffering from anorexia weigh less than 75 percent of the healthy weight range, putting them at risk of several health problems. Anorexia nervosa treatment centers will usually combine physical rehabilitation and recovery with psychological therapy.
Treatment centers with inpatient programs can provide the required nutrition while monitoring the medical condition of the patient. Medication may or may not be used, depending on the needs of the patient. Inpatient treatment is beneficial, but outpatient options are also available. However, outside of the controlled environment of a treatment center, anorexic patients can quickly revert to unhealthy habits. Family and friends will usually lack the objective viewpoint and the firm hand to manage the condition.
In the end, treating anorexia requires addressing both the physical and mental aspects of the condition, especially the damage wrought by weeks or months of malnutrition. Early detection is crucial, so make sure to keep an eye on your loved ones.