Anorexia NervosaAnorexia Nervosa
In America, girls are given the message at a very young age that in order to be happy and successful, they must be thin. Given the value which society places on being thin, it is not surprising that eating disorders are on the increase. Every time you walk into a store, you are surrounded by the images of emaciated models that appear on the covers of fashion magazines. Thousands of teenage girls are starving themselves daily in an effort to attain what the fashion industry considers to be the ideal figure. The average model weighs 23% less than the average woman. Maintaining a weight 20% below your expected body weight fits the criteria for the emotional eating disorder known as anorexia. Most models, according to medical standards, fit into the category of being anorexic (Thompson, Colleen).
Anorexia has been known and recognized by doctors for at least 300 years. Most researchers agree that the number of patients with this life threatening disease is increasing at an alarming rate. The Rice Counseling Center defines 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. In accordance with information given by the Counseling Center at the University of
Virginia, the development of this disease generally begins at the age of 11 or 18. Significantly, these ages coincide with new phases of a girl’s life, the commencement and ending of adolescence. Recent estimates suggest that out of every 200 American girls between this age span, one will develop anorexia to some degree. The disease develops over a period of time during which the sufferer changes her eating patterns from normal or near normal to a very restricted diet (S.C.A.R.E.D. Website). This process can take anywhere from months to years.
Clinically, 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 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 also feel they do not deserve pleasure out of life and will deprive themselves of situations offering pleasure, including eating. The fears of anorexics become so difficult to manage that the sufferer will gradually isolate him/herself from other people and social activities (S.C.A.R.E.D. Website). This happens so the sufferer can continue the exhausting anorexic behaviors. Although 30% of anorexics eventually die from the disorder, approximately one third overcome the disease with psychiatric help.
While the cause of anorexia is still unknown, a combination of psychological, environmental, and physiological factors is associated with the development of this disorder (Cove, Judy). The most common cause of anorexia in a girl is 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. 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 says former anorexic Nanett Pearson, Miss Utah 1996. Ironically, when a person stops eating, their body goes into starvation mode losing very small amounts of weight. When the body receives food, it is then stored away until the next time food is obtained. At first, this method may seem to work and the subject loses weight, but as the body soon adjusts to the lack of food it learns to use the energy it is given stingily. Another cause of anorexia is the need to obtain perfection. A perfectionist desires excellence in all aspects of their life. When they cannot achieve perfection in their endeavors, they punish themselves by restriction or starvation. A perfectionist likes to be better than everyone else, if she sees someone with a waist an inch smaller, her waist must be two inches smaller.
Anorexics sometimes desire control over their lives, including their physical and emotional surroundings. Miss Pearson explains I loved the power I felt in starving myself. People