Anorexia Nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders highly prevalent among the teenagers. Anorexia Nervosa is a condition which affects individuals who are looking for perfection of their body shape, but which has devastating psychological and the physiological effects on the individual.It is usually characterized by extreme low body weight and distortion of the body image.
Most of those who become anorexic have an obsessive fear of gaining excess weight resulting to various voluntary easting disorders including starvation, purging, excessively engaging in physical exercises to create a negative energy balance, and other measures like diet pills or the use of diuretic drugs.
The condition has also shown a gender dimension where female adolescents are mostly affected although research shows that about 10% of anorexia condition has been diagnosed in males.
The condition comes with various neurobiological, psychological, and sociological effects which may lead to the death of the victim.While individuals may have an obsessive fear of gaining weight, anorexia nervosa may have severe negative effects more than what can be attributed to being overweight.
What is anorexia nervosa?
While the battle ranges on fighting the rising case of overweight, there are more efforts directed on the opposite direction.
The rising cases of anorexia nervosa especially among our teenagers has been a matter of concern to health experts promoting action on some social events like modeling competition which promote anorexic conditions especially one teenage girls (Ellison, 1999).
Anorexia nervosa, which is simply referred to as anorexia, is eating disorder which affects individuals who have obsessive fear of becoming overweight. It is a psychological disorder which goes beyond eating disorder. Apart from fearing begin overweight, it is also an unhealthy way of trying to cope with various emotional problems, perfectionism and the desire to have control.
Anorexic individuals usually equate themselves with how thin they are. While it starts out as a simple way to diet, the condition may spill out of control and become chronic therefore difficult to overcome (Simpson, 2002).
Anorexic individual tend to maintain a body weight that is far below their normal body mass index, which is a ratio of individual height and weight, and which is used to assess the weight status of individuals. In some extreme cases, individuals becoming skeletally thin although due to psychological disorder they think they are still fat and therefore continue losing more weight. This extreme thinning comes with various health effects including psychological and physiological effects.
Causes of anorexia nervosa
Although there is no known cause of anorexia nervosa, it is postulated that biological, psychological and social cultural factors at play which leads to development of the condition. Let us look at these factors.
Biological predisposition is one of the leading factors which lead to development of the condition. Research has found out that teenagers with parents or older siblings who have developed the condition are at a higher risk. This may indicate a genetic link to the development of the condition (Ellison, 1999). Studies of twins have been used to support this possible genetic link.
There is a probability that individual have genetic component towards perfectionism, sensitivity and perseverance which are traits associated with the condition. However, there is no evidence that serotonin, which is the hormone associated with depression, has a role in development of the condition.
Psychological factors have been explored far and wide. It is postulated that it is possible that people with anorexic individuals have psychological and emotional characteristics which may predispose the individual to the condition.
These individuals tend to have obsessive-compulsive personality traits which may influence them to stick to a strict diet despite their continued hunger (Ellison, 1999). They may also have an extreme drive to perfectionism.
For social cultural factor, research has found out that the modern western culture reinforces the desire to have a thin body. The media has created the desire to have waif-like images of models and actors who become role model for the teens. Peer pressure may also have a factor to play (Simpson, 2002).
How does Anorexia Nervosa evolve?
Anorexia nervosa is a chronic condition which evolves in different stages. An understanding of these stages is important to assist physicians to identify the most appropriate intervention that will be appropriate intervention.
The first stage is the identification of weight problem, which is an obsessive problem although the individual may not be overweight. At this stage the individual begin dieting. The stage may last four to six months. The mind of the victim is occupied with the need to lose weight and control the body. Close friends and family members are helpless to the victim.
The next stage is the stagnation stage. At this juncture, the weight loss reaches its bottom and the individual cannot lose more weight (Lucas, 2005). This is a long period which is usually filled with frustrations individuals want to lose more weight which they cannot and at the same time they are not ready to gain weight.
The third stage is regaining of weight. In this period, the individual fails to gain more control of her body as body cells respond to starvation. This is usually one of the most terrible periods for the individual as one cannot have more control of the body.
The individual may have bulimic episodes but continued weight gain makes one frustrated and unhappy which is followed by self hate and sometimes depression (Lucas, 2005). The individual seems to improve physically but psychologically feels incompetent setting in the paradox of anorexia.
The last stage is confronting the reality. At this stage, the individual is physically correct and their weight become normal again and has no more bulimic episodes or if present they are less intense. At this stage, individuals are able to accept themselves but with help from counselors, friends, and family members. (Lucas, 2005)