Anorexia Nervosa means 'Nervous loss of Appetite' and is not to be confused with the medical term Anorexia which on its' own means 'loss of appetite'. Hence, to keep the definition accurate, I will abbreviate this illness to AN from now on.
AN is both a physiological and psychological illness. Increasing evidence shows that some people are genetically predisposed to this condition, and the illness may be triggered by one or many of the following experiences * ; Abuse, Bereavement, Puberty, High expectations from others, Depression, Sports or occupations requiring a certain body shape, Divorce of parents, Domestic violence, Overprotective or neglectful parents (regarding physical and/or emotional needs.), Dieting, An initial loss of weight due to a different illness such as the Flu, The media. I have purposefully left the The media until the end of the list to stress the misconception that The Media is any more tiggering than the others. I do not believe that the Media is the cause of dramatically increased incidents of AN. I believe that it is Modern life as a whole which has resulted in this increase, plus the fact that AN is no longer as hidden as it was.
* Let me know if there are any more triggers you would like me to add.
Back to the basics:
A person with AN will**:
- Have a morbid fear of becoming fat.
- Have a BMI of below 17.5
- Have Amenorrea ( the seization or non development of a menstrual cyle - for children this criteria is obviously not valid and the child will be diagnosed with Early-onset AN.)
- Perhaps have a distorted body image, although personally I think this could be a misleading assumption. See quotes below:
‘I know I am not fat, but fat FEELINGS continue and extend beyond my body – BODY is the exterior representation of my tortured inside.’ - Jennifer Hendricks (in a severely anorexic state)
'By 'fat' I mean I feel consumed by something that I cannot control; I feel guilty; angry; frustrated; spiteful; ashamed and most of all; I feel in pain.' - Me‘Whether a distorted body image is a genuine phenomenon or a cover for their Abnormal behaviour is difficult to tell. I have questioned many children who have recovered and they all say that they can remember very little about how they felt, or indeed if they felt...’ - Dee Dawson
Early intervention is the key to treating AN, however the sufferer may be resistent to treatment, sometimes to the extent of intense rage. Using force will only make things worse in the long run, so the person should be treated with respect, understanding, patience, acceptance and honesty. They should be reassured that their condition is not their fault, and with time, the hope is that they will begin to trust a therapist enough to let down the barrier and accept help.
** Criteria paraphrased from the DSM IV