Anorexia is a serious illness that can have severe impact on those who suffer from it. It can have serious physical and psychological consequences, and is even fatal in up to four percent of cases. There are a total of 24 million people across America who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, and up to 70 million sufferers worldwide.
The sad truth is many more people will remain silent, unnoticed, and untreated.
People who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa are often unable to maintain a healthy weight for their size and age. Eating disorders are generally centered around a negative body image. The sufferer may experience an intense fear of gaining weight, even when they are severely underweight. Often body image becomes the person’s whole life, and their whole sense of self esteem is based upon it.
Recognizing The Signs Of Anorexia
If you suspect that someone you know is suffering from anorexia, then it is important to look out for signs that may confirm your belief. The earlier you can do so, the earlier you can provide the support and help that they need.
For the most part, physical and psychological signs of anorexia are the same for boys and girls, although boys can tend to manifest their behavior in slightly different ways. Females are more likely to show direct concern for body size, while boys are more likely to show extreme athleticism and problems with supplements.
Generally the signs of anorexia can be broken down into two categories: psychological and physical. You should look for both, and you should know that they form an interaction. The physical signs of anorexia often stem from the psychological issues which are underlying.
If you notice a lot of the mentioned signs of anorexia in your son or daughter, especially the more significant and obvious ones, then you should seek help for them.
Recognizing Physical Signs Of Anorexia
If your teenager usually has regular eating habits, then it will be very obvious if they start to show signs of anorexia. It will completely disrupt their love for food, and their passion for eating. Their body image and need to lose weight will become more important to them, and this will result, over time, in physical weight loss. Here are some physical signs of anorexia to look out for:
- The primary sign to look for in anorexia is intentional weight loss. Anorexia sufferers, due to the attitudes and distorted body images that they experience, want to lose weight- beyond what is healthy for their body type.
- If your teenager has anorexia, you might see that they are avoiding eating, skipping meals, lying about what, and how much they are eating, or becoming obsessive about food. In extreme cases they may take diet supplements, or induce vomiting after meals. Boys are also more likely to over-exercise in an attempt to lose weight.
- If your son or daughter have very low body weights for their size, age, and body type, then you should consider whether they could be anorexic.
- Negative physical symptoms can persist as a result of malnutrition and under eating. They are not signs in themselves, but should act as a confirmation that your teenager’s eating habits are causing them significant damage. Symptoms include constipation, headaches, dizziness, tiredness, fainting, and stomach pains. Later conditions can get much more serious, so seek medical help early if your boy displays any of these symptoms severely.
Recognizing Psychological Signs Of Anorexia
Although the main sign of anorexia is an intentional weight loss, this is often accompanied- or might even be a result of- damaging psychological patterns of behavior and thought, especially towards food and body image.
Anorexia often occurs with other psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Around 50% of people who are diagnosed with eating disorders, also meet the criteria for depression. Here are some psychological signs of anorexia to look out for:
- If you notice that your teenager has been feeling depressed or anxious, then you should see if this is also effecting their eating behaviors. Self harm has also been associated with anorexia.
- An aversion to food is often caused by a negative body image. People who suffer from anorexia can have an intense fear of gaining weight, and may perceive themselves as being larger than they are. If you notice your teenager constantly referring to his body in a negative way, especially if he is underweight, this is likely a sign of anorexia.
- If you warn your son that their weight is dangerously low, or they are warned by a health professional, and they refuse to accept this as true, let alone change their behavior, then this can be a sign of the sort of body image problems that anorexia is associated with.
- Another psychological sign of anorexia, could be that you notice that their self esteem is very low, and that they constantly refer to themselves in terms of their body image: as if their whole sense of self depends on their unsatisfied opinion of their weight and size.
- Mood swings and defensive behaviors are displayed when they are challenged or confronted about food.
- Possible and prolonged withdrawal from usual social group and activities can occur, usually caused by diminishing self esteem.
Anorexia In Boys
Anorexia and other eating disorders have often been conceptualized and presented as being a “girl’s illnesses.” This misconception has lead many boys to keep quiet about their problems. A recent study by Ralsanen & Hunt (2014), interviewed young men, and found that men tended not even to recognize their symptoms as being signs of an eating disorder. They also suggested that professionals had failed to make the recognition, largely due to the lack of awareness about the illness in men.
It is important therefore, that anorexia is recognized as being an illness that occurs across any gender, and also that boys are less likely to seek help. Although statistically speaking, males make up only an estimated 5-15 percent of those who suffer from eating disorders, the statistics may not reflect the reality if less boys are being diagnosed, and seeking treatment.
Never Be Afraid To Seek Help, For Yourself And For Others
If you sense that someone you know has anorexia then you should avoid being aggressive and confrontational. You can look for the signs of anorexia that are mentioned above, and become very observant of their behaviors and attitudes, as well as their physical fitness. If someone you know is displaying the early signs of anorexia, then you may be able to help them be reaffirming their body image, and by encouraging them to be more conscious of their problem, perhaps by keeping a food journal.
More than anything you should seek expert medical and psychological advice as soon as possible. The treatment for anorexia is long, but it can be tackled much more easily if it is caught early.