Strong Signs That You May Be Suffering From Anorexia Nervosa, Without Even Realising It
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“...believe me when I tell you that anorexia is like living in a morbid dreamland, far away from reality; with walls put up so high, no one’s pleas or attempts come through.”
“We turn skeletons into goddesses and look to them as if they might teach us how not to need.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia
You know how bell-bottoms were really trendy once, and so everyone had a pair? Or maybe bell-bottoms were trendy because everyone had a pair. You’ll never know the difference, but that’s exactly what happens when you find out that the most popular girl in your school is anorexic. You don’t think, “Oh! That’s too bad. She needs help, or else she’ll kill herself in the long run”. You think, “She has lost so much weight…and she does look fantastic”. And then you search up anorexia, and find out that anorexia nervosa is, in fact, an eating disorder characterised by attempts to lose weight through excessive exercise or starvation. Then you see that Snooki, Christina Ricci, Jessica Alba, Lady Gaga, Jane Fonda, and Portia de Rossi had it. And suddenly, it starts to seem fashionable.
That is how it starts – a simple thought, an ordinary moment, a meal skipped; and before you know it, you’re spiralling down fast and starving yourself, because that seems like the only way to live. Coming from a former anorexic, believe me when I tell you that anorexia is like living in a morbid dreamland, far away from reality; with walls put up so high, no one’s pleas or attempts come through. I was an exercise anorexic, running 10 kms a day – slowly dissolving away. I am grateful to the intervention that happened in time, and stopped me from taking my own life. That reminds me – TIME is the most important word with any eating disorder, because the sooner it is caught and stopped, the lesser damage it will cause.
Here are the strong signs that scream that you, or someone you know, is on the same route:
- An abnormal fear of gaining weight.
- Rapid, dramatic weight loss to reach at least 15 per cent below your normal body weight.
- Preoccupation with food, cooking, or recipes, but otherwise restricting food intake at all times.
- Excessive exercising.
- Purging: Using laxatives, diet pills etc. to lose weight, despite knowing the consequences.
- Avoiding social gatherings, dinners, or events with food.
- Eating in isolation.
- Cutting food into tiny bits and chewing for longer, claiming to be full after a bite or two.
- Wanting solitude and isolation from family or friends, fearing being caught.
- Abdominal distension.
- Hair loss and brittle nails.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Rapid mood swings.
Anorexia nervosa comes with other comorbid conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), depression, alcoholism, anxiety disorders, body dysmorphic disorder etc. It’s not possible to say who exactly is more at risk, but anorexia is seen in women up to 10 times more than in men. It is also observed in people working closely with the media, arts, or cinema, where the pressure to look good is immense. Teens and young adults make up 95 per cent of the cases, as opposed to older adults. Sometimes, losing a job, divorce, or any such stressful situations can be triggers.
You may just have realised that you, or someone you know, needs help. Where do you go? What do you do? Admitting is really the first and the most important step in treatment. Tell someone, anybody you're close to, anyone you trust. This can be tough, especially if you've been keeping it a secret for a long time. The next natural step is to meet a professional, who will be able to guide you through the journey to complete recovery.
Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disease, so far. Each one of us is equally vulnerable, just as susceptible to this condition. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential for all of us to watch out for signs and symptoms in people around us, in order to catch the disease early on, and uproot it before we lose more lives.