An eating disorder is a serious mental health problem that can, in some circumstances, be deadly if left untreated. But which eating disorder is most deadly? This is a question that is regularly asked by family members and friends of those with such a disorder. The reality is that all eating disorders can be dangerous to health, but perhaps one of the deadliest is anorexia because many of those who suffer from it never recover.
Anorexia has a high mortality rate due to the impact it can have on physical health. Moreover, while all eating disorders can be harmful to both mental and physical health, most professionals agree that anorexia is the worst.
What is Anorexia
Anorexia, like all other eating disorders, is a mental health problem. Those affected see themselves differently to the way everyone else sees them. Even though these individuals may already be thin, they will believe that they need to lose more weight and will take extreme measures to achieve as low a body weight as possible.
People with anorexia tend to severely restrict their calorie intake in a bid to have the lowest body weight they possibly can. However, even when painfully thin, these individuals will believe they are not thin enough. They will challenge any suggestion that they need to put weight on and will continue to starve themselves or take other measures to drop even more weight. This might include exercising excessively, taking laxatives, or making themselves vomit after eating.
Why Is Anorexia So Deadly?
When pondering the question of which eating disorder is most deadly, anorexia always comes up because of the devastating impact it can have on the health of the affected person. The consequences of anorexia can be fatal because starving the body can lead to severe physical problems.
When anorexia continues for a long time, it can have deadly implications for health. For example, those affected by anorexia often suffer from severe muscle wastage and problems with bones. Anorexics frequently suffer from extreme fatigue, weakness, and even osteoporosis. Younger anorexics may have problems with their physical development.
In extreme cases, anorexia can cause the body’s organs to shut down, inevitably resulting in death. Before this occurs though, it can lead to issues with fertility, low blood pressure, and poor circulation. Below are just some of the problems associated with anorexia:
- Kidney problems
- Bowel problems
- Heart irregularities
As well as the many physical health problems caused by anorexia, sufferers may also develop mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts are also common among anorexics, with around one in five of all anorexia-related deaths attributed to suicide.
How to Spot Anorexia in a Loved One
Anorexia can be classed as a deadly illness, but it is also one that is often missed in the early stages. It is usually only when a person’s weight drops significantly that the possibility of anorexia is considered. If you are worried about a loved one and have concerns that he or she may be struggling with anorexia, look out for the following signs:
- A dramatic drop in weight
- A preoccupation with food and calories
- A reluctance to eat with others
- Making excuses for not eating, such as saying they have already eaten or will eat later
- An intense fear of gaining weight
- A distorted body image
- Low self-esteem
- Excessive exercising
- Disappearing into the bathroom after eating
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide weight loss
- Becoming increasingly isolated and withdrawn
- Becoming angry at the suggestion that he or she should eat more
Who is Affected by Anorexia
Anorexia is often thought to be something that affects young teenage girls only, but the reality is that it affects people of all ages and of both genders. It is a mental health condition that is very complex. It does not affect just one type of person, although it must be said that the majority of anorexics do tend to be female.
Nonetheless, that does not mean men are not affected; in fact, many men do suffer from this condition. The cause of anorexia is not straightforward either. There is no single cause for everyone, and what triggers the condition in one person may be completely different to what triggers it in another.
However, as with other mental health conditions and addiction, there are certain factors that can increase the risk of anorexia. These include:
- having a family member with a history of eating disorders, substance abuse, or mental health problems
- having a job or hobby that places emphasis on having a particular body shape, such as ballet, athletics, modelling, or being a jockey
- suffering emotional trauma
- being criticised for body shape or weight.
It is important to remember that having these risk factors does not mean a person is going to develop anorexia or any other type of eating disorder, but the likelihood will be greater than it would be for someone with none of the risk factors. For example, criticism of body weight may make one person react by going on a severe diet and restricting calories, whereas in another person the same remark may be one that is brushed off and forgotten about.
An eating disorder such as anorexia can be a way for a person to have some control in at least one aspect of his or her life. Many anorexics feel as though every other part of their life is out of control – when it comes to food, however, they have complete control.
Can Anorexia be Overcome?
When talking about which eating disorder is most deadly, it is important to discuss the question of whether an eating disorder such as anorexia can be overcome. The answer is that yes, it most definitely can, but it is never an easy task. As those with the condition have an intense fear of gaining weight, it can be a struggle to help them develop a healthy attitude to eating once more.
Individual counselling is a massive part of a recovery programme for anorexia. Those with the condition need to understand the consequences of their actions and need to be in a position to accept that they are harming their health. This is not as easy as it first sounds.
Many anorexics find it difficult to see what others see in terms of their body shape and weight. They do not believe they have a problem and are often resistant to any suggestions that they need help. It is usually only with the help of experienced counsellors that their negative thought patterns can be challenged and overcome.
How to Access Help for Anorexia
As anorexia can be such a difficult condition to treat, counsellors who specialise in eating disorders are needed. This is where Banbury Lodge can help. We have fully trained counsellors with specialist knowledge of treating eating disorders such as anorexia.
If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, please give us a call. We will discuss your situation with you and determine the best course of treatment in terms of achieving full recovery. We can answer any queries you may have and, if you are ready to get started on a comprehensive recovery programme, we can set the wheels in motion and help you take the next steps on the recovery journey. Please call today to find out more about us and what we can do to help you or a loved one get well again.