Anorexia Nervosa is a very serious mental health condition, most commonly, yet by no means exclusively, diagnosed in adolescent girls.
It is so much more than a desire to be thin. It is a need, a compulsion rather, to lose weight at almost any cost. No matter how thin the anorexic becomes, it is never enough.
They will still see themselves as fat and truly believe this.
Anorexia Nervosa usually begins with a diet. The sufferer may lose a little weight and feel good for it. They may even be praised or rewarded by others for their fabulous new looks. Where most people would look forward to the diet ending and getting back to the foods and behaviours they enjoyed before the diet began, the spiral of misery and despair is just beginning for the anorexic.
More and more food is restricted, whole food groups may be eliminated one by one – no carbs, no meat, no dairy, raw foods only etc. Meals are pretended to be eaten, avoided, hidden, thrown away. Exercising becomes obsessive and takes over other once enjoyable activities. Compulsive weighing several times a day, vomiting, laxative and diuretic abuse. Anything necessary to be smaller and smaller. To disappear.
The anorexia controls everything and everyone. All relationships will be affected and family and friends may feel utterly helpless. (Please read our section on carers for more information).
There are many different theories as to what may cause someone to develop anorexia. Anorexia Nervosa translates to “appetite loss of nervous origins” and it is true to say that it is a way of managing anxiety.
The sufferer may have great difficulty coping with stress. They may find relationships difficult and have very low self-esteem. They will often have perfectionist tendencies and harbour a great fear of failure. The anorexia can seem to offer a solution. The only solution to an unmanageable life.
As long as the sufferer follows the instructions of the anorexic voice which can scream in their head, life can be simple, uncomplicated.
There may be other predisposing factors; genetic links, a family history, bullying, past trauma, avoidance of sexual maturation or pressure to conform to media images of impossible beauty.
The truth is, there is unlikely to be one cause and once the disorder has hold of the sufferer, unravelling the journey prior to the anorexia will only be part of recovery.