Anorexia Nervosa 2 Essay, Research Paper
Could you imagine being so afraid of food and the possibility of gaining weight that you would actually starve yourself? Food and eating are pleasures of everyday life we take for granted. Having the life of an Anorexic person fills you with the constant fear of one thing .becoming fat.
Eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa are slowly gripping a part of the female adolescent to young adult population. Although, Anorexia Nervosa has only been public since the 1970 s, records of the disorder go back as far as 1689. Thomas Morton, an English physician, studied subjects with a disorder he called the wasting disease. He had two cases, which were very similar. One was an eight-teen yr. old girl and the other was a six-teen yr. old boy. Both subjects had similar symptoms. They both had a strong lack of appetite, sensitivity to coldness, and extreme sadness. The girl eventually starved herself to death; however, the boy did recover (Gordon 12-13).
Through out the centuries there have been many cases of girls fasting , and not due to religious purposes. In the 1870 s the disorder became a topic of more medical concern. It happened around the time two doctors, Sir William Gull and Charles Lasegue, simultaneously published papers on a number of cases dealing with self-starvation (Alexander-Mott &Lumsden 101-102). Gull actually came up with the term Anorexia Nervosa, because he believed it was a nervous disease. Both doctors note four distinctive characteristics with each case. All of the patients experienced high levels of hyperactivity. Each of the patients denied the existence of the disorder. Also, they each had peculiar attitudes toward food. Finally, each patient had pathological family interactions (Gordon 13).
Years following Gull and Lasegue s discoveries, research continued on this peculiar disorder. Unfortunately for a long period of time Anorexia was confused with Simmond s Disease, an endocrine disorder. So, for awhile Anorexia sufferers were being prescribed the wrong medications, such as thyroid extracts (Gordon 14). Finally, in the 1930 s the two disorders were distinguished between.
In 1973 a woman who trained in psychoanalysis, named Bruch, wrote a book on eating disorders. Bruch had previously worked for three decades with Anorexic and obese patients. She observed that Anorexics had three main characteristics. The first was a distorted body image, a misperception of fat. The second was the inability to identify needs, particularly hunger, but also the whole range of emotions. The last characteristic was a feeling of ineffectiveness, lack of self-worth (Matthews 30).
From Bruch s characteristics stemmed the guidelines brought forth by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The first guideline was the refusal to maintain normal body weight. The second was an intense fear of gaining weight. The third was a distorted body image. Then the last characteristic was amenorrhea (Alexander-Mott & Lumsden 107).
There are many ideas and theories on what causes Anorexia Nervosa. From a psychological standpoint, it is thought that Anorexia stems from childhood and adolescent experiences. It is known now that most Anorexic patients come from families with overprotective parents who pushed them to live up to unachievable goals or perfection. The Anorexic person believes that their weight and eating habits is one of the only things they have control over (Matthew 31-32).
Another theory from a social aspect has to do with the way women are perceived in society. It is believed that since beautiful women are portrayed as ultra thin, then the Anorexic person believes they can only be beautiful if they are also extremely thin. Thus forth, starving themselves to achieve this goal (Gordon 32).
The process an Anorexic person goes through is devastating. It all begins with simple dieting. When they start to lose weight they get attention and power from it. Then the dieting turns to fasting; weight loss becomes more extreme. They even start to withdraw from their normal everyday activities. Soon after, the fasting turns into willful starvation. The Anorexic person withdraws more and more from society. They also get depressed and start getting secretive about their disorder. They ll even wear baggy clothes to hide their disgustingly thin and they deny that anything is wrong (Gordon 17).
Besides the fact that they are very skinny, other physical signs start to show. They ll become very weak and get muscle fatigue. Both their metabolism and their heartbeat will start to slow down and they become more susceptible to heart disease. Their normal hair will grow thin and brittle, while a soft fur will start to grow in unexpected places (such as on the face). Anorexic patients also become very sensitive to hot and cold, and their extremities often turn bluish-gray in color.
Unfortunately, five to ten percent of cases are fatal. Anorexia, however, does not have to end tragically there are procedures for treatment. One is nutritional rehabilitation. Another method is by weight restoration. All Anorexic sufferers should also undergo long-term psychotherapy (Matthews 36-38).
Anorexia Nervosa is a very real disorder and I believe it results from both roles of parents and social interactions. If we d quit trying to get people to fit this perfect mold, maybe disorders like Anorexia wouldn t be present today. I know first-hand that this disorder is real, for I ve known someone who s suffered from it. It s hard to watch one of your friends waste away until she becomes so depressed, that she almost kills herself. My friend finally got to the point where she could not even leave her bed because she was so weak. Finally, she was hospitalized and put on a strict diet until she regained her normal weight. I do not believe the psychological symptoms ever fully go away. Even though my friend is perfectly normal weight again, she frequents the doctor often.
Anorexia Nervosa is an unusual disorder and to this day is still not fully defined in medical terms. Who can really know if we ll ever find the origin and reason for this disorder? I think the only thing we can do as society, role models, and parents is to be accepting of all people and not set unrealistic goals. We need to allow ourselves to break the mold of this devastating disorder.
Alexander-Mott, L., & Lumsden, D.B. (1994). Understanding Eating Disorders. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.
Gordon, R.A. (1990-1992). Anorexia and Bulimia: Anatomy of a Social Epidemic. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
Matthews, J.R. (1991). Library in a Book: Eating Disorders. New York: Facts on File Inc.