Anorexia Nervosa

In American society women are given the message starting from a very young age
that in order to be successful and happy, they must be thin. Eating disorders
are on the rise, it is not surprising given the value which society places on
being thin. Television and magazine advertising that show the image of glamorous
and thin model are everywhere. Thousands of teenage girls are starving
themselves daily in an effort to attain what the fashion industry considers to
be the ideal figure. An average female model weighs 23% less than the
recommended weight for a woman. Maintaining a weight 20% below your expected
body weight fits the criteria for the emotional eating disorder known as
anorexia (Pirke & Ploog, 1984). According to medical weight standards, most
models fit into the category of being anorexic (Garfinkle & Garner, 1990).

Physicians now believe that anorexia has existed for at least 300 years (Pirke
& Ploog, 1984). It was however only about one hundred years ago that

Professor Ernest Lasegue of the University of Paris finally identified anorexia
as an illness (Pirke & Ploog, 1984). The term "anorexia nervosa"
literally means nervous lose of appetite. Most researchers and physicians agree
that the number of patients with this life threatening disease is increasing at
an alarming rate. Garfinkle & Garner define anorexia as ⌠an emotional
disorder characterized by an intense fear of becoming obese, lack of self-esteem
and distorted body image which results in self-induced starvation (1990). The
development of this disease generally peaks between the age of 14 to 18 but can
occur later in life and is not uncommon to see it in women in to their early 40\'s.

Recent estimates suggest that 1% of American girls between this age span will
develop anorexia to some degree (Garfinkle & Garner, 1990). It has also
propagated in many college campuses, and it is spreading. Studies have shown
that nearly 20% of college women may suffer from anorexia or bulimia (Pirke
& Ploog, 1984). The disease develops slowly over a period of months to years
during which the sufferer changes her eating patterns to a very restricted diet.

As stated previously above, an anorexic is diagnosed by having a body weight 20%
below the expected body weight of a healthy person at the same age and height of
the eating disorder patient. The anorexic may often becomes frightened of
gaining weight and even of food itself. The patient may feel fat, even though
their body weight is well below the normal weight for their height. Some may
even feel they do not deserve pleasure out of life and will deprive themselves
of situations offering pleasure, including eating. This fear becomes so
difficult to manage that the sufferer will gradually isolate themselves from
other people and social activities. This happens so the sufferer can continue
the exhausting anorexic behaviors. Although the mortality rate is high (30% of
anorexics will eventually die from the disease), approximately one third are
able overcome the disease with psychiatric help (Pirke & Ploog, 1984).

Warning signs to look for in someone you suspect of anorexia. Physical signs are
intolerance of cold due to the absence of the body\'s natural insulator (fat),
dizziness and fainting spells, dry skin, loss of muscle, and the most obvious, a
weight loss of about fifteen percent. There are also behavioral changes in a
person when they becomes anorexic including restricted food intake, odd food
rituals, an increased fear of food, hyperactivity, dressing in layers, and
regular weighing. Some "odd food rituals" include things like cutting
food into small pieces, counting bites or even talking to their food. Anorexics
are not repelled or revolted by food, in fact their minds are often dominated by
thoughts of food. While the exact cause of anorexia is still unknown, a
combination of psychological, environmental, and physiological factors is
associated with the development of this disorder (Cove, 1998). The most common
cause of anorexia in a woman is an incorrect self-perception of her weight.

Anorexics feel as if they are heavier than the others around them, and believe
the quickest way to lose weight is to simply stop eating. Anorexia survivor

Nanett Pearson (Miss Utah 1996) explains I became obsessed with body image. I
kept journals and in one pathetic passage I described how I went for sixteen
days on water, and only about two glasses a day (1998). At first, this method
may seem to work and the subject loses weight, but their bodies will soon adjust
to the lack of food it learns to use the energy it receives more efficiently.

Ironically, starvation is a very inefficient way to