Symptoms of anorexia in teenagers – Anorexia symptoms include physical, behavioral and physiological signs and symptoms. Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous and potentially deadly disorder that causes afflicted individuals to starve themselves in misguided attempts to achieve their distorted image of “thinness”.
The disorder is marked by extreme weight loss and an unwillingness to maintain a level that health professionals would consider to be even minimally normal for the person’s age, gender, and height. Though it primarily affects teenage girls and young women, anorexia can also occur in men and boys.
Individuals who suffer from anorexia become fixated on body shape and weight, and regardless of how emaciated they become, they remain convinced that they are “fat.” Though they will often attempt to hide the effects of their disorder by withdrawing from friends and family, or by wearing baggy clothing, they actually view their self-starvation as a successful imposition of self-discipline – and any weight gains as personal failures.
Anorexic individuals employ a variety of techniques to control their weight. The following are four of the most common measures anorexics take to avoid gaining even the slightest bit of weight:
- Refusing to eat foods that they believe to be high in calories or fat.
- Restricting their diet to small amounts of a select number of low-calorie foods.
- Bingeing (eating a large amount of food in a short period of time), then immediately purging (expelling the food from their bodies by taking laxatives or forcing themselves to vomit).
- Refusing to eat in the presence of others (to avoid calling attention to their unhealthy eating habits).
Though anorexia first manifests itself as a mental disorder, the malnutrition that results from the condition can inflict significant damage on sufferers’ physical and emotional health. The following are among the possible effects of anorexia:
- Cardiac disease –The most common cause of death in individuals who are suffering from severe cases of anorexia.
- Bradycardia – A dangerous slowing of the heart rate that results from self-starvation.
- Brain Damage – Brain scans of anorexic patients have noted changes in brain structure as well as abnormal activity in parts of the brain. Some of this damage is reversible once an individual resumes a healthy diet, but certain impairments appear to be permanent.
- Dehydration – Can lead to kidney failure, heart failure, seizure, brain damage and death.
- Depression – Physical weakening can exacerbate the body dissatisfaction and self-loathing that are often at the core of anorexia cases. Suicide is believed to be responsible for as many as 50 percent of all anorexia-related deaths.
- Hyponatremia – The opposite of dehydration, drinking too much water can cause fluid in the lungs, brain swelling, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and death.
- Muscle Atrophy – A body that is deprived of essential nutrients will begin feeding on itself, depleting muscle mass (including heart tissue) in the process.
Though anorexia nervosa can cause severe – even deadly – damage to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being, the good news about this disease is that, with proper treatment, recovery is possible. If you suspect that someone you know is struggling with anorexia, do not hesitate to help them get the treatment that they so desperately need.