In the modern world with fashion industry’s standards of beauty eating disorders are still on a balanced rise. "You can never be too thin" peer demands and daily magazine covers with ultra-thin models or stars make us only too conscious of our own flaws. What is not shown are the statistics: 20% of people with anorexia will end up dead. Anorexia nervosa, like most eating disorders, usually starts during puberty, but it can also affect adults and children. Recent studies indicate that the age of onset of anorexia is getting younger and younger, starting as early as 7 years of age. Though most commonly associated with teenage girls and adult women, it is estimated that 10% of reported cases of anorexia are boys and adult men. These numbers could be false, since anorexia is pegged as a "female disorder" and men might have difficulties admitting to the disease.
People who have anorexia are obsessed with being thin and will usually go to any lengths to achieve and maintain this. They can't see themselves through others' eyes and often perceive themselves as fat. As a result, they will literally starve themselves in the name of "beauty". Obsession with calorie counting, taking laxatives and diet pills or diuretics (drugs that elevate the amount of urine excretion), sometimes bulimia (inducing vomiting after a meal) and excessive exercising are the most common signs of this disease; as is hiding food or lying about food consumption. Food will be put in the mouth but then secretly spit into a napkin. The affected person will chew very slowly to give the appearance of eating longer, i.e. he or she "finishes" at the same time as the rest of the table. Food will be pushed around in the plate, mixing it up so it's hard to tell how much he or she really ate. Though anorexics in general avoid high calorie food, they will sometimes eat a lot of junk food, especially candy, smoke and drink a lot of coffee (a natural diuretic) or tea.
Most people understand anorexia as the desire to be thin, but there is more to that. Very often anorexics feel that their life is out of control and that they have no power over things happening in their lives. The one thing they can control though is their body weight and how much they eat. Other emotions causing the onset of anorexia can be stress, anxiety, unhappiness and depression. The only way they know how to cope with these emotions and to express them is through having control over their food consumption. What most anorexics seem to have in common is a background of abuse, be it physical, emotional and/or sexual, though not in all cases and sometimes, it is actually just about the physical appearance. Models, dancers or long-distance runners feel the need to be extremely thin to be on top of their game. Genetics also seem to be a factor: If one of the parents was anorexic, the children have greater chances of developing anorexia too. If left untreated, anorexia can cause irreparable damage to the body and nervous system and in some cases, it can be fatal. The most common cause of fatalities due to anorexia is heart disease. Anorexia causes irregular heart rhythms, which can eventually result in smaller heart muscles.
Due to hormonal changes, anorexia can cause retarded growth, bone loss, infertility and in women, the absence of menstruation. The lack of minerals and electrolytes in the body causes an imbalance and fatigue can set in. The imbalance itself can also become life threatening. Another uncomfortable side effect of anorexia is bloating and constipation. Untreated anorexia can cause seizures, leaving behind irreparable nerve damage. Counseling with a nutritionist, psychotherapy, family counseling and in some cases, medications and antidepressants specifically are also included in the treatment of anorexia.