People with anorexia have a strong desire to lose weight and achieve this by severely restricting what they eat, and by using behaviours such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercising. Anorexia is diagnosed if a person has a body mass index (BMI) of 17.5 or less and their weight loss is self-induced. Anorexia often begins as an intense fear of gaining weight or a strong desire to be thin. Individuals with anorexia can see weight loss as a positive achievement which makes them feel in control and good about themselves. However as their weight loss progresses, often the goal becomes to achieve and maintain a dangerously low weight.
A person with anorexia can see themselves as being ‘fat’ and become particularly concerned with certain parts of their body. It may seem that their view of themselves is in conflict with how others see them and it is difficult to convince them to gain weight.
Anorexia is a serious condition that can cause severe physical problems. A person with anorexia is essentially starving themselves which in turn means the body is not getting enough nutrients to maintain important physical processes. In order to keep the essential systems such as the heart and other vital organs functioning, the body begins to break down its non-essential resources. A person’s energy levels are low during this process and they will find it difficult to concentrate on anything. There is a loss in muscle strength and bone density and osteoporosis is a danger for women. A woman’s periods may also stop which reduces fertility and a man may suffer from a lack of interest in sex and impotency may occur.
The illness can also impact on a person’s social life and cause strain in their close relationships as they can become quite secretive and withdrawn. Anorexia severely affects how well a person can concentrate and people are often extremely tired as a direct consequence of their low weight, which makes continuing at school, college or work very difficult.
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