Anorexia: In case you’re not sure, here are some things it isn’t

Anorexia

To start with, anorexia is not a young girl’s disease. It is not something that hits pubescent or pre-pubescent girls who fall under the sway of bullying or a delusion. Nor is it the purview of spoiled rich kids. Anorexia can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, race or ethnicity.

Nor do you need to be thin or emaciated to be suffering from the disease. Overweight people may also suffer from the disease but it will be less likely to be diagnosed because no one will even look for it. Anorexia is also something that men suffer from. Effectively, unless you are actually involved in a situation where anorexia is a factor either as a sufferer or as a bystander, you probably could do with a refresher on anorexia.

Anorexia

It isn’t something you grow out of

Anorexia consists of two parts, one part which is perhaps the more dangerous is the inability to maintain an adequate body weight. The other part is dangerous enough, this is the self-starvation part. Both elements create an issue, but they are cyclical and demanding masters.

People can suffer from anorexia for decades. They can also get treatment for the entirety of the time they are ill. The behavior that leads to hospitalization – the starving or eat/vomit cycle – can often be normalized with a stay in a hospital. But without therapy, the negative behavior will kick in again the minute the sufferer leaves care.

Studies have shown that sufferers find it almost impossible to change their entrenched patterns without external help.

Anorexia is not someone’s fault

In the early days of diagnosis and treatment and without better information there was a concept of fault. Initially, it was spoiled teenage girls who had everything and were demanding attention. Then it was seen as a signpost to something else going on in a household; the parent’s too controlling, the child too rebellious.

Anorexia

None of these worked well either for the sufferers or those who were trying to help. The realization from medical staff as well as families and sufferers that no one had done anything wrong; nothing to cause the problem was a major breakthrough in the diagnosis and then also in terms of treatment. Without carrying the blame, it was possible for sufferers to develop a new relationship with food.

If it gets far enough, there are things you can’t fix

When anorexia gets far enough for the sufferer to cause damage, it can be irreparable. Decades of not receiving enough calories and nutrients can damage bones irreversibly. The stress on the internal organs can be life-threatening. Even for sufferers in treatment the shock to the system can be enough to cause premature death.

Views on anorexia have changed

All of this is to the good. It means that rather than treating the symptoms, the likelihood is that professionals will immediately look at the underlying causes, and start treatment in more than one direction something for which I am grateful, but we should all be so.