April 16, 1999
Anorexia is an eating disorder that usually strikes women between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. An estimated one thousand females will die each year from anorexia. About eighty percent of females suffer from a sub clinical eating disorder and twenty percent will turn into full-blown anorexics in their lifetime. These are statistics that we know of. Anorexia can be hidden very well by many that suffer from it; therefore there are many cases we do not know of. Anorexia is a disorder in which preoccupation with dieting and thinness leads to excessive weight loss. The individual may not realize that weight loss or restricted eating is a problem. (Internet Mental Health www.mentalhealth.com).
Anorexia may not be noticed in the early stages because it often starts as an innocent diet. They often become hyperactive because they exercise frantically in an attempt to burn calories to lose weight. Even though the anorexic is emaciated, she still feels "fat" and wants to hide her "ugly, fat body". A victim does not need to appear underweight or even average to suffer any signs or symptoms of anorexia. Many men and women with eating disorders appear not to be underweight, but this does not mean they suffer any less or are in any less danger. This is why in later and more dangerous stages; family members may not notice the disease because the anorexic usually wears layered and baggy clothes. (www.somethingfishy.com).
Presence of a low self-esteem is the most common element in anorexia nervosa. Stress, anxiety and unhappiness can also be leading factors in an anorexic life. Anorexia is their way of dealing and coping with the negative things going on in their life. Most people with eating disorders share certain personality traits, low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness and a fear of becoming fat. People with Anorexia tend to be "too good to be true." They rarely disobey, keep their feelings to themselves, and tend to be perfectionists, good students, and excellent athletes. Some researchers believe that people with anorexia restrict food, particularly carbohydrates, to gain a sense of control in some area of their lives. They have followed the wishes of others in their lives, and they have not learned how to cope with the problems typical of adolescence, growing up, and becoming independent. Controlling their own weight offers two advantages in their eyes; first they can take control of their bodies and secondly, gain approval of others. Eventually they become out of control, becoming dangerously thin. (Microsoft® Encarta 98 Encyclopedia).
Victims suffering with Anorexia get a sense of power out of their eating disorder. It is not uncommon to find an anorexic that feels high after periods of starvation. This is due to their feelings of inadequacy. Their poor self image and perception leads to feelings of guilt, they feel like they never do anything right and nothing they ever do is enough. Starvation is an accomplishment in their eyes, something they can do right. They also feel that their life would be better if they could lose weight, or that more people would like them if they lost weight.
Anorexics feel a need to control physical and emotional surroundings. In this way eating disorders are a negative coping mechanism, used to control emotions or to keep them suppressed. It feels easier to think about food, food intake, hunger, planning meals or avoiding them, instead of dealing with their emotions. Eating disorders can have a numbing effect, and can give victims a feeling of power over their emotions. (Mind & Body- Signs and symptoms- Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders)
Another major reason why women develop anorexia nervosa is societal pressures. In our society today there is an obsession with being thin in order to be beautiful. The waif look was recently popular causing many people to want to look like the models in magazines.
Genetic factors can also play a role in anorexia. Eating disorders appear to run in families. Female relatives are most often affected. Although genetic factors may play a role in the development of anorexia, other influences play a role such as behavioral and environmental. A recent study found that mothers who are overly concerned about their daughter’s weight and physical attractiveness