Most people have heard of the eating disorder anorexia, but the majority believe it is a lifestyle choice rather than a mental health problem. And many believe that it is something that affects just teenage girls; in fact, it can affect individuals of all ages and of both genders.
Anorexia is a serious mental health problem and one that can have terrible consequences on health. What anorexia does to your body is devastating and without treatment, it is an illness that can end up being fatal. It is for that reason that treatment is absolutely necessary.
Who is Affected by Anorexia
Before we even look at what anorexia does to your body, it is important to consider who this illness affects because misunderstandings around this issue can often lead some people to believe they are not affected when in fact they are in desperate need of help.
Eating disorder charity BEAT estimates that there are around 1.25 million people in the UK with an eating disorder and that around a quarter of them are male. Moreover, while anorexia is perhaps the most well-known eating disorder, only ten percent of people with eating disorders have it. Four times as many individuals suffer from bulimia while the other half are characterised as having ‘eating disorder not otherwise specified’.
BEAT also says that although most people who develop eating disorders such as anorexia do so during adolescence, there are some children as young as six suffering with this mental health problem and women in their seventies also developing the problem.
What you need to know is that eating disorders such as anorexia are not something that happens to young girls only. As mentioned above, age does not matter when it comes to anorexia, and neither does gender.
Do You Have Anorexia?
If you have anorexia, you are probably going to struggle believing it as you will see yourself differently to how others see you. In your mind, you will need to lose weight and you will be taking drastic measures to achieve this aim.
Maybe you have a deep fear of putting on weight and no matter how much you lose, it is never enough. To achieve your goal, you might be eating very few calories per day and you may even be cutting out entire food groups that you see as bad.
You probably see yourself much larger than you actually are, and if someone suggests you should put on weight, you will become defensive and challenge this notion. It can be hard to change the thoughts that are running around your head, and your negative perceptions of your body will be driving your behaviour.
You might prefer eating on your own, where you can eat as little as you like without anyone else making any comments. This might mean that you will lie to your friends or loved ones about what you have eaten earlier in the day. You might say that you have already eaten and that you are not hungry. Or you could be telling them that you will eat later.
You might also be exercising dramatically in an effort to shed even more weight. You may even be taking laxatives or diet pills to help you get slimmer. All of this will begin to take its toll on your mind and body. You might be feeling anxious and depressed as you struggle to achieve the lowest weight possible, all the time keeping what you are doing a secret from those around you. This will end up having an impact on your relationship with those around you.
As they begin to realise that something is not right, they will become concerned for your welfare and might start asking questions about the amount of weight you are losing and the changes in your behaviour. Nevertheless, because you cannot see the things that are clear to them, tensions might appear in the relationship as you refuse to accept the truth.
All the above can have devastating consequences for your wellbeing and your quality of life, but what anorexia does to your body is something that cannot be underestimated. It is a serious illness that can have deep and lasting effects.
How Your Body Will be Affected by Anorexia
Anorexia can have a profound effect on your thinking and behaviour and it can cause the above-mentioned problems within your relationships. However, it can also cause a lot of harm to your physical wellbeing. What anorexia does to your body is something that has to be addressed.
If you are severely restricting your calorie intake each day, you will not be providing your body with the fuel it needs to function, which can make it to go into survival mode. Your bodily functions will start to slow down in a bid to protect you and this will leave you feeling tired and weak.
If you are female, your periods might become irregular or stop altogether, and you will lose all interest in sex. You might begin feeling dizzy due to low blood pressure, and your body temperature will drop, meaning that you will feel cold all the time.
As you are not eating enough food, you will suffer digestive problems. You will become bloated and suffer constipation, which will then lead to pains in your stomach. Your hair might start to fall out while simultaneously a soft fine hair known as lanugo will develop all over your body in an effort to keep you warm. This is the same hair that covers the body of a foetus as it develops in the womb.
The impact of all the above on the body can be lasting. Without treatment, the symptoms of anorexia will become long-term problems. You might, for example, go on to develop a loss of bone density, which is known as osteoporosis.
Due to the changes to your menstrual cycle, you might find it difficult to conceive; you may even become infertile. Your internal organs can also become damaged. The liver, kidneys, and heart tend to suffer damage because of anorexia.
Is it Possible to Overcome Anorexia?
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of overcoming anorexia is admitting to having it in the first place. The deep fear of gaining weight may be preventing you from accepting there is a problem and that you need to eat.
If you are affected by anorexia, you will need professional help to challenge the negative thoughts that are driving your behaviour. Recovery is a long road and therapy can be quite tough, but you should know that you can get better with the right help and support.
Overcoming anorexia is all about learning how to develop a healthy relationship with food. Talking and behavioural therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy will help you to identify the maladaptive thought processes that have led you to this point in your life. Furthermore, by working closely with a counsellor on a one-to-one basis, you can learn how to challenge these thoughts.
You are also likely to have close contact with a dietician who will educate you on the essential foods for good health. While there is no denying that this can be a long and challenging road, recovery is possible if you have the care and support of dedicated professionals and those you love.
If you would like more information about what anorexia does to your body or how you can get your life back on track, please contact us here at Banbury Lodge today. We specialise in treating all types of eating disorders and can provide answers to your questions as well as information on our programmes. Our fully trained advisors are ready to take your call and will deal with everything you say in strict confidence.