Asking whether you are anorexic may be a great first step toward controlling a very complicated and difficult illness. Though there can be medical causes for anorexia, a loss of appetite and resulting weight loss, like certain drug therapies or prolonged illness. However, Anorexia Nervosa is a mental disorder caused by numerous factors that are not simply of medical origin. Anorexia Nervosa is as much an illness as is very poor weight or excessive loss of weight due to illnesses like cancer.
If you think you might be anorexic, you might recognize some of these symptoms:
1) Often, the anorexic exerts control over food intake because many things in his or her life seem beyond control. You may find yourself eating tiny amounts of food, like two or three carrots a day, or only one food like rice. It is not uncommon for the anorexic to begin with a bent toward perfectionism. In fact, many anorexics are great students, great athletes, and wonderful friends. They try to be all these things, just as they try to get a perfect body.
2) Unfortunately, along with control of food, the anorexic tends to have a distorted image of his or her body. What would seem skinny or unhealthy to other people still may seem fat to the anorexic. Generally, an anorexic’s weight is significantly underweight. As well, if an anorexic visits a doctor and is told to gain weight, it becomes almost impossible to. Gaining weight would mean getting fat, even if the person is dangerously skinny.
3) In medical terms, anyone who is under 85% of his or her expected weight for height and age is a candidate for an anorexia diagnoses, though there are other factors that can lead to a reduced body size.
4) Although many anorexics may say that they are not hungry in an effort to hide their disorder, hunger persists. When an individual truly stops becoming hungry, that is often a sign that starvation has become life-threatening. Until that time, most anorexics are ravenously hungry, yet not willing to eat.
5) In girls, one of the key signs of anorexia is three missed periods or more. Although this condition, amenorrhea, can also result from girls exercising significantly, if you are not an athlete or pregnant, you should be concerned if periods stop.
6) You might also note symptoms like sunken eyes, slow heart rate, and more susceptibility to illnesses.
7) If food intake continues to be too low, the condition can become life threatening. You can have dangerous heart arrhythmias, and the other organs of the body may fail due to starvation.
8) Unfortunately, the anorexic may fail to take note of these symptoms because the goal is to continue to get thinner. This is a distorted view of the body. If other people have told you that you are too skinny, and especially if a doctor has voiced concerns about your low weight, you probably are anorexic.
If you cannot eat enough food to gain weight, and you limit yourself to very little food, this may be a good indication that you are anorexic as well. In our culture, we are told to watch our weight, and the bodies we see on movie stars are extremely skinny, below normal weight bodies. This helps to distort our image of what we should look like. However, watching one’s weight when one does not need to is a hallmark of anorexia. If a person is below weight, the goal is to get one up to an ideal weight. If ideal weight seems too fat, you may be struggling with a distorted image of what your body needs to look like.
If you think you may be anorexic, the first thing to do is talk to someone who can help you. Maybe that someone isn’t a family member or spouse. It might be a school counselor, a trusted teacher, a friend’s parents, or a doctor. These people can help you explain to family members that you need treatment and support to overcome your condition. The decision to talk to someone may be life-altering for you, as it may help lead you out of a potentially fatal disease, into a healthier and happier life.