Anorexia – Mental disorder of the day – Kennedy Torch


Trigger Warning: Discussion of Extreme Diets and Anorexic Behavior

October is Mental Illness Awareness Month, so each day I will explain a mental disorder, its effects, symptoms and how to support someone with this disorder.

A quick warning: this is not a self-diagnostic tool. It is simply a matter of educating and sensitizing others to the different types of mental disorders. Please contact a professional if you have any concerns.

October 1 – Anorexia

Anorexia, with more than 200,000 cases per year, is one of the most common eating disorders in the United States. It is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess over their weight and what they eat.

This disorder can be developed by anyone and is often triggered by family or friends suggesting dieting or losing weight, trauma or loss, others displaying the disorder, as some cultures perceive body weight and size; personality and brain chemistry.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of anorexia affect the body and behavior, including:

  • The whole body—Dehydration, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, low blood pressure, low body temperature, osteoporosis, fluid and electrolyte imbalance or feeling cold
  • Weight– underweight, weight loss or extreme weight loss and slimming
  • Intestines-constipation or vomiting
  • Menstruation– irregular periods or absence of periods
  • Mood– anxiety, apprehension or guilt
  • Behviour– binge eating, compulsive behavior, hyperactivity, impulsivity or social isolation
  • Development-delayed puberty or slow growth
  • Other—Brittle nails, bruising, depression, diet, dry skin and hair, headache, sensitivity to cold or slow heartbeat.

These symptoms can be difficult to detect in others because those with anorexia tend to hide or validate their symptoms. Their abnormal behaviors are not a choice and are not just meant to attract attention. There is psychological reasoning behind them.

For example, people with anorexia often eat the same food over and over while refusing to eat other foods. This is because this specific food is a “safe food” and is most likely low in calories to reduce the risk of weight gain.

Understanding the emotional and mental symptoms of a person with this disorder is key to supporting them. These may include:

  • Constant worries and thoughts about food, weight, and body image
  • Extreme fear of gaining weight or putting on weight
  • The need to feel in control
  • Food rituals
  • Refrain from social situations that may involve food
  • Fear of eating in public

When supporting someone with anorexia, there are a few steps you should take.

  • Learn about eating disorders, but understand that it can be different for everyone.
  • Talk to them kindly about their behavior.
  • Suggest talking to an adult or bringing in a professional.
  • Support them and support them in their struggle.
  • Don’t shame them throughout the recovery.
  • Understand and sympathize with their struggle and their point of view.

Misconceptions about anorexia make it difficult for those affected to talk about their struggles.

The misconception that people with anorexia have to be thin to be anorexic, for example, is simply wrong. Body size has nothing to do with anorexia; it is about the behaviors they display and their relation to food.

Another misconception is that people with anorexia don’t eat. In reality, they eat but limit themselves to an unsafe level and avoid very specific foods. Eating anorexic can be like eating only “safe foods”, satisfying hunger with low-calorie or no-calorie drinks and chewing gum, and keeping a food diary to track each calorie they eat.

This disorder is different for everyone and usually goes unnoticed. If you or someone you know is having difficulty, please contact an adult or someone you trust. We are here to help, not to judge.


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