Anorexia - Anorexia

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Anorexia - Anorexia
Anorexia - Anorexia
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Video: A Day in the Life of Anorexia Nervosa 2023, February
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Anorexia: what is it?

In the eating disorder anorexia nervosa (anorexia), eating behavior is restricted. In addition, other measures are sometimes taken that lead to or maintain underweight - for example self-induced vomiting.

After a certain period of time, the disease becomes visible: those affected are extremely thin. Anorexia nervosa has many consequences, some of which can be serious.

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  • Restriction of eating
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Restriction of eating

The severe weight loss in anorexia nervosa is caused by those affected - for example, by restricting eating (and drinking) and starving.

In addition, those affected take other measures to lose weight, such as:

  • self-induced vomiting,
  • Abuse of laxatives (laxatives),
  • Taking appetite suppressants and / or diuretics,
  • extreme exercise program (excessive sport).

Anorexia nervosa does not necessarily have to be associated with binge eating and self-induced vomiting (restrictive type). Those affected can, however, have binge eating, self-induced vomiting and abuse laxatives and diuretics (“binge eating / purging” type).

Weight Loss & Body Awareness

In adults with anorexia, the body mass index (BMI) is below 17.5 kg / m 2, and the body weight is at least 15 percent below the weight that is to be expected for the sex, age and height. In children and adolescents, the percentile curves are assessed using the body mass index. The value 17.5 in adults roughly corresponds to the third percentile of the BMI.

You can calculate the BMI for children, adolescents and adults on the Health Promotion Switzerland website.

Although patients with anorexia nervosa are extremely thin, they are not so in their self-perception (body image disorder). You are afraid of being too fat.

Disorders of the hormonal balance occur. This can be shown by a lack of menstrual bleeding (amenorrhea) in women and a loss of libido and potency in men. Those affected very often lack the knowledge that there is an illness with sometimes severe consequences. In most cases, they must first be convinced by a doctor to clarify the causes of the weight loss.

Anorexia nervosa is not always immediately noticeable to relatives. It can, for example, begin with diets that appear harmless (e.g. omitting sugar, sweets, etc.). Weight loss can be (very) slow. It can lead to an extremely selective and strict food selection in which, for example, carbohydrates, fiber and fats are avoided. Eating rituals such as extremely slow chewing and very small cutting of the food are also indications.

Different situations or changes - such as the first love, a first long stay abroad or changes through puberty - can trigger anorexia. However, they are not alone decisive for the disease. For more information on risk factors, see Eating Disorders: What Is It?

Consequences of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa has many consequences, some of which can be serious. The state of hunger affects the body and psyche. At first, those affected still feel good. With progressive weight loss and constant hunger, there are more consequences and physical damage. Because of their illness, those affected often do not have many age-typical experiences (such as trying things out during puberty, etc.).

Disorders of development and hormonal balance

In children or adolescents, the disease can lead to a "standstill" or delay in development - for example, delaying puberty and the occurrence of the first menstrual period in girls. Later on, the impairment of the hormonal balance sometimes leads to the absence of menstrual bleeding.

If the intake of nutrients is too low and the hormonal balance is disrupted, the disease can later lead to osteoporosis. Before and during puberty, a large part of the bone mass is normally formed.

Cardiovascular system & metabolism

The severe emaciation leads to a drop in body temperature, blood pressure and pulse, as well as a slowdown in the breathing rate. This can be seen, for example, in the affected person's cold limbs. The slowed heartbeat, in turn, can lead to dizziness and fainting spells. In addition, impairments of the electrolyte balance and a susceptibility to inflammation occur. Edema may be visible on the limbs. Sleep disorders also occur.

Nutrient deficiency, skin & hair

The disease is also noticeable on the skin and hair, for example in the form of atrophic, dry skin, hair loss and much more. In addition, frequent vomiting can attack the tooth enamel. Swelling of the salivary glands is one of the physical changes caused by anorexia nervosa.

The lack of nutrients and the low intake of food lead to gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation and flatulence.

Damage to organs

A severe state of hunger basically affects the entire body and therefore also important organs such as the brain, liver, kidneys and heart. A very pronounced anorexia can have corresponding consequences. For example, kidney damage can occur - in very severe cases up to kidney failure.

Mental symptoms & illnesses

Anorexia nervosa often begins around the age of adulthood. The illness can cause concentration problems and loss of interest as well as social withdrawal. With the duration of the illness, apathy and irritability appear. Depressive moods also occur. Diseases such as depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders or symptoms are often found in connection with anorexia nervosa.

The disease usually lasts for years. A cure is possible, however, in the long term, severe damage and, in the worst case, an increased risk of death from the consequences of the disease or from suicide can be expected.

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