Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder. Generally individuals suffering from anorexia will restrict how many calories they consume and what kinds of food they eat. They might also compulsively work out, binge eat, and purge via the use of laxatives and/or diuretics or forcing themselves to vomit. Other potential signs of anorexia nervosa could include:
- Weight loss
- Being unable to gain enough weight (in growing children)
- Being an abnormally low weight for someone of their stature
- Having a distorted body image
Potential Health Risks Associated with Anorexia
Anorexia nervosa comes with many potential health risks because the body’s processes slow down as it attempts to conserve energy in response to a dangerous cycle of self-starvation. In severe cases, individuals suffering from anorexia nervosa could suddenly pass away from cardiac arrest or electrolyte imbalances. This highlights the importance of early intervention and receiving the appropriate treatment.
Can Anorexia Be Prevented?
The Mayo Clinic says that although there is no way for a parent to guarantee their child will not develop anorexia nervosa or another type of eating disorder. However, they suggest some ways to help foster healthy habits and thought processes. These include:
- Talking to your child. This is especially important because your child could be seeing dangerous ideas on the internet; you can correct any misconceptions your child has and explain the risks of eating choices that are unhealthy to them.
- Help cultivate and reinforce health body image. You can talk to your child about their self-image and explain that bodies vary in shape and sizes. Also, it is important to resist criticizing your own body in front of them, while offering respect and acceptance which can help promote resilience and health self-esteem.
- Avoid dieting around your child. Your food-related habits could influence your child’s relationship with food. Eating meals together is a way you can teach your child about eating reasonable portions, having a balanced diet, and avoiding the dangers of dieting.
- Get help from their doctor. Doctors might be able to identify behaviors that suggest the development of an eating disorder; they can also ask your children questions that will help shed light on their situation, as well as keep track of their body mass index to ensure it is healthy.
No two recovery journeys from anorexia or another type of eating disorder will look alike. This is because everyone has their own specific situation with often differing needs. The National Eating Disorders Association suggests that people look at recovery from an eating disorder as five (and sometimes six) stages of change. These stages are:
- The pre-contemplation stage: people might not be convinced they have an eating disorder, though their loved ones are now aware of it.
- The contemplation stage: people are able to admit they have an eating disorder and are ready to begin treatment.
- The preparation stage: people feel ready to change, but are unsure how to proceed. It is important to establish effective coping skills during this stage.
- The action stage: people feel ready to put their recovery strategy into action and confront their eating disorder.
- The maintenance stage: also called the maintenance/relapse phase, people reach this point once they have been in the action stage for approximately six or more months. During this time, a treatment team might suggest that people revisit triggers in an effort to prevent relapse.
- The termination stage and relapse prevention: during this stage, people may learn that they are ready to stop treatment.