Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is characterised by an intense fear of, and issues around, body weight. This results in a subsequent avoidance of maintaining a normal, healthy body weight.

This is achieved by severely restricting food intake, and is sometimes coupled with laxative/diet pill abuse, excessive exercise, induced vomiting. Those suffering with anorexia tend to have very low body weights, and the condition often starts in the teenage years. It is a mental illness, and is indiscriminate when it comes to age, gender and race.

Eating disorders, like Anorexia, can often follow a traumatic 'trigger' event – such as bullying, bereavement, exam pressure, relationship break ups, or abuse of some kind. The sufferer's size, weight or shape may be seen as a focus of control, deflecting attention from the underlying issues.

The illness has the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric illness, with 20% of people dying every year as a direct consequence of their illness or by taking their own life.

What is happening?

As humans, we need food to nourish and fuel all aspects of our being – our body, mind and spirit. When we are deprived of this nourishment, chemical changes occur, which affect our physical, emotional and mental functions. The problem for those restricting their food intake to gain control over their lives is that the effects of starvation quickly take control of the body, which then begins to fight for survival. Initially, anorexia may be a conscious decision to stop eating. However, the ability to make rational decisions diminishes with extreme weight loss and for many, the added burden of depression affects their decision making even further. The weight loss, which was originally seen as the solution, has now become a problem.

Possible Signs & Symptoms

“I saw a SWEDA support worker on campus at university. I had been struggling with binge eating disorder and compulsive exercise for about ten years. The SWEDA support worker was able to help me look at my relationship with food and my body in a different way. I have learned to be kinder to myself and they taught me techniques which helped me to slow down my thinking. Now I can go out and have fun without worrying all the time.”

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