Often times, anorexia begins with a harmless diet, to shed some extra pounds. If the weight continues to drop and eating behavior gets out of control, professional help in the form of psychotherapy is usually necessary. Girls and young women in particular are at risk of developing anorexia – but men can also be affected.
The disease can be life threatening. Early therapy significantly improves the chances of recovery. What is anorexia? Anorexia, along with bulimia (eating and vomiting addiction, bulimia nervosa) and binge eating disorder, is one of the eating disorders. These mental illnesses are characterized by a pathological way of dealing with food intake. According to the definition, anorexia has a body mass index (BMI) of less than 17.5 kg / m².
Further criteria for making a diagnosis are self-induced weight loss, a body schema disorder in which those affected feel too fat despite being underweight , and hormonal disorders as a result of malnutrition. If all of these criteria are not met, experts speak of atypical anorexia.
Binge eating disorder in bulimia and binge eating disorder In contrast to anorexia, bulimia does not focus on starvation, but on binge eating with subsequent deliberate vomiting. Both eating disorders have in common the pathological fear of gaining weight and the constant mental preoccupation with food.
The Binge eating disorder is also characterized by binge eating. However, since there is no subsequent countermeasure such as vomiting, the patients are mostly overweight. Orthorexia: Pathologically healthy diet A newly emerged form of the eating disorder is the so-called orthorexia : Here, those affected compulsively pay attention to a healthy diet and strictly refuse to eat unhealthy foods in their eyes. Long-term consequences can be malnutrition and social isolation. However, orthorexia is not yet a recognized disease.
Who has anorexia? Anorexia is particularly common in teenagers and young women. But men can also be anorexic. However, this is far less the case, as women are affected around ten times as often. As a rule, the disease begins between the ages of 10 and 25, but mostly during puberty between 13 and 16 years of age. In Germany, around 1.4 percent of adults suffer from anorexia – according to the result of a representative study from 2013 . However, the frequency information in this regard fluctuates very strongly.
In addition, the number of unreported cases is extremely high, especially with eating disorders. Slimness delusion as the cause? Various causes can lead to the development of anorexia. Genes seem to play a role, because in identical twins, both siblings are affected in up to 50 percent of cases. Biological factors such as changes in neurotransmitters can also be involved. In addition, trauma in childhood, disturbed conflict processing in the family or an overprotected upbringing can all contribute to the development of anorexia. Whether the spread of the slim ideal of beauty in the media and society can promote or cause anorexia is controversial.
How do you recognize anorexia? But when does one speak of anorexia? The alarm sign is the so-called body schema disorder (body dysmorphia): Anorexics find themselves too fat despite being obviously underweight and want to continue to lose weight. Another characteristic of anorexia is the strict control of food intake, whereby “fattening” foods are usually avoided.
The difference to pure underweight is important: underweight people are often referred to as anorexic even though they have normal eating habits. Anorexia: possible symptoms In addition to the main characteristic “underweight due to self-induced weight loss”, anorexia can show itself in various forms.
Other possible symptoms include: long periods of fasting excessive exercise Abuse of drugs such as laxatives , water tablets, thyroid medication , or appetite suppressants willful vomiting with or without previous binge eating strict control of body weight with a very low target weight panic fear of gaining weight Hiding weight loss – for example by wearing baggy clothing or hiding weights when weighing very slow eating or self-made “eating rituals” constant mental preoccupation with the subjects of weight and nutrition