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How Does Anorexia Affect Someone?

Author: Elaine Guo

Editors: Flynn Ma,  Junyu Zheng, and Rachel Chen

Artist: Christina Chen

Anorexia has the highest case mortality rate of any mental illness, causing 10,200 deaths every year or 28 deaths every day, an absurd amount of fatalities for just one mental illness. Anorexia is a type of eating disorder that will eventually lead to severe malnutrition, characterized by having an unhealthily low body weight and a very skinny appearance. People with anorexia commonly restrict their consumption of food and calorie intake in an attempt to obtain a desired body type or weight, often because they feel the need to look a certain way to fit into society’s beauty standards. It can be caused by various reasons, either internally or from exterior influences.  Sometimes, people develop this condition as a coping mechanism to distract themselves during challenging situations, but it can develop into a life-threatening mental illness and is extremely difficult to overcome due to its habitual nature. In some situations, people can be scared of gaining weight because of the idea of being “fat.” No matter the cause of why a person develops anorexia, the many physical symptoms manifest differently for everyone. 

The exact cause of anorexia is unknown, but it can be a mix of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Genetics, such as a tendency towards perfectionism and sensitivity, are both associated with anorexia. Peer pressure or fat-shaming from friends, classmates, colleagues, and even family members can make a person insecure about their body image. Social media can also play a significant role, especially in the lives of adolescents. Teens tend to follow their peers and can be easily influenced as they grow up, influenced by what they see online. Seeing other people have the perfect body they yearn for influences them to look the same way. Similarily, if someone posts a video or picture online, hate comments can be targeted toward their appearance, or they might see an unrealistic body type or weight and try to achieve that through food restrictions or even starvation. Another factor could be because of cultural reasons. Around the world, culture can play a huge role in how someone wants to live their lives. Many different cultures have a beauty standard of being thin, with a lot of people who are willing to do anything to meet this unrealistic standard. Psychologically, people might be obsessed with keeping a strict diet because they feel it is easily consistent and turn it into a habit. 

There are many symptoms associated with anorexia, with the main one being starvation; people suffering from anorexia often feel the urge to decrease their food intake to extreme degrees. This is because they often show or express a great concern for their body image and weight. They get overly obsessed with the way they want to look. Physical symptoms include extreme weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, absence of menstruation in people with uteruses, low blood pressure, etc. There are also many emotional and behavioral symptoms. This includes skipping meals, only eating food that is low in calories, constantly observing their weight, or refusing to acknowledge their hunger.  These symptoms can be different for every person as their body is different and most likely responds differently. Some might show all these symptoms, and others might display only a few or most of them.

Anorexia significantly impacts people’s health and can even lead to death in several severe cases. The resulting malnutrition from the lack of vitamins, nutrition, and proteins can cause numerous complications, including kidney problems, anemia, and bone loss. These conditions then increase the risks of bone fractures, various physical disorders, and can even lead to suicide. Anorexia causes many deaths each year, even though many people may find this disorder as irrelevant. 

              Many people overlook mental illnesses as something that you can just “get over,” but treatments are always available. Treatments can be helpful and useful to overcome this issue. Seeing a doctor or therapist can get a person with anorexia quickly diagnosed and placed on an effective treatment plan. Having someone supportive to help them get over the fear of eating can reduce the pressure and lighten their mood through the whole process of recovery. While there is no guaranteed prevention for anorexia, early intervention and open conversations without stigma can make a significant difference. If possible, always try and talk to someone because having that support can help you mentally. In order to get better physically, it is important to have an optimistic and hopeful mindset, as a healthy mindset usually leads to a healthier life. 

 

Citations:

“Anorexia Nervosa.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research,

20 Feb. 2018, 

Stage, Celeste. “What Are Visible Signs of Anorexia?” Whatisanorexia.Org

“Eating Disorder Statistics: ANAD - National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and

Associated Disorders.” ANAD National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and

Associated Disorders, 3 Apr. 2024, 

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