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Recognizing the Signs of Anorexia

An estimated eight million Americans are dealing with an eating disorder. Although it is a problem which affects boys, girls, men and women, for young women the condition can be deadly. Anorexia, for example, claims more women’s lives (12 times more) than any other cause of death between the ages of 15 and 24. Anorexia is a serious mental illness which leads sufferers to restrict their food intake to the brink of starvation. Since the illness is actually a mental/emotional condition it is causing harm to young women long before its effects become visible in weight loss. Even before dramatic weight loss, a young woman may show changes in how she relates to food.  She may start to pick at the food on her plate and show little or no enjoyment in eating.  Something akin to fear slowly replaces pleasure at mealtimes. The person will often reveal their inner struggles with self-acceptance by frequently commenting on their size and weight. This can be true whether she is five pounds, 50 pounds or zero pounds overweight. The person feels unworthy and that often comes out in their self-talk a good while before their starvation wracks their health. When the body is deprived of proper fuel it will attempt to compensate. In order to keep warm the person’s body may spark a surge of all-over hair growth. Increased hair growth then, could point to an eating problem. Malnourished skin will also lose its luster and a girl with anorexia can slowly develop a sickly pallor. Undernourished bodies conserve energy and young girls starving themselves because of anorexia often experience a suspension of their menstrual cycle. Their young body is trying to adjust to reduced calories and nutrients. If a young lady stops needing monthly supplies of feminine care, she may be signaling other deeper emotional issues. Of course, if the young lady is curtailing her food intake severely, then eating normal-sized portions may actually cause her some pain and stomach cramping. Attention should be paid when a young lady is dropping weight and her attempts to eat normal portions produces stomach pain. A final sign that something could be amiss is if the young lady starts to wear baggy clothing. If her fashion style suddenly switches to oversized shirts and pants she may be trying to hide her drastic weight changes. People with anorexia don’t want to eat, but neither do they want to argue with others about their decision not to eat. The person affected may continue to buy food and even help prepare meals with no intention of eating more than a morsel. Hiding the illness from healthy family members is what is key. Recognizing the more subtle signs of anorexia can be the difference between life and death. If the eating disorder is caught early, intervention is hopeful. The longer the disorder is allowed to continue, the harder it is for the sufferer to break free and the more likely that serious repercussions will result.

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