Anorexia - the symptoms, impact and where to find help | Mynurva

Anorexia

Despite common misconceptions, Anorexia is primarily a serious mental health condition. Those with anorexia have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they are fat when they are actually underweight. They then try to reduce weight further by not eating enough food and exercising too much. This leads to serious physical illness through starvation.

It’s not easy for someone with anorexia to suddenly start eating again. Once a little weight is gained their brain or mental health condition thinks ‘you’re getting fat’ and puts effort into resisting food and taking more exercise. This is why anorexia is more of a mental health issue than a simple diet or weight issue.

Although anorexia is often associated with teenage girls, it affects both men and women. It often starts in mid-teens but the symptoms can carry on throughout adult life.

 

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Symptoms of Anorexia

anorexia

Impact of anorexia on physical health

Although anorexia is mainly a mental health issue, the long-term impact on the physical body is extreme and very damaging. The body is starved, developing heart problems – heart failure and swelling of hands and feet, low blood pressure. Problems with the brain – fits and memory loss, problems with muscles and bones – weakness and stunted physical development, bowel and bladder problems and fertility issues. Untreated, anorexia can cause hospitalisation or even death.

Getting help and treatment

It is common for someone with anorexia to avoid seeking help as they will deny there is any issue at all with their weight. They are deliberately starving themselves whilst their brain is thinking they are fat.

If someone with anorexia wants help and wants to get better then this is most of the battle won. The biggest difficulty is for them to understand there is a problem to start with.

 

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Treatment focuses on talking therapies such as counselling and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and developing a healthy lifestyle and body image. Once they have a better image of themselves, their brain will stop trying to prevent them from eating. Therapy helps them develop positive ways of coping with the negative thoughts and feelings associated with anorexia. It empowers them to dismiss these thoughts and turn them into something more positive.

Many people recover from anorexia or develop better lifestyles and a more healthy weight. However, there’s always a risk of relapse and it can be helpful to have someone – a friend or a trusted third party to talk to if the negative thoughts reappear and become difficult to control. This is especially true at stressful times in life – maybe a new job or relationship or change in family circumstance.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from anorexia or other eating disorder, help them take the first step on the road to acceptance and recovery.