The ideal image of what a human body should look like is different for each and every one of us. Similarly, beauty is also in the eye of the beholder. For people suffering from anorexia nervosa, or just anorexia, their view is dangerously distorted and can be permanently harmful. Anorexia is affecting the lives of many young women in America. Cases show that 95% of those affected by anorexia are female, many of them in their adolescent years. The disorder affects the lives of these girls, causing permanent damage to their body and to their mind. The most common cases appear among teenage girls, but this is not always the case, teenage boys can develop the disorder as well. Symptoms of anorexia typically begin to expose themselves during early adolescence; but also are seen in young children and adults. In the United States, it is estimated that one out of every hundred adolescent girls has the disorder (Dryden-Edwards). Although this is the typical case seen, anorexia does not discriminate, and has potential to affect every race, gender and ethnicity. Research has proven however that Caucasians are more often affected than people of other racial backgrounds, and is often seen more in middle and upper socioeconomic groups. What holds true about this disease and is universal, no matter what, is that it’s a serious mental illness with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. It is crucial for parents to recognize the symptoms of anorexia in their children and provide immediate help for those affected.
Anorexia is an eating disorder usually described by refusing to keep a healthy body weight combined with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Furthermore, it is often combined with a distorted self image. People suffering from anorexia continue to feel hunger, but refuse to allow themselves all but very small amounts of food. On average, the caloric intake of a person with anorexia is 600–800 calories for a day. By the way, if you need professional essay help on Anorexia topics, you can easily get it online, from experts.
Certain extreme cases exist where the person exhibits total self-starvation. This eating disorder has two stages of peak onset: around age fourteen, and at about age eighteen. The prevalence of adolescent onset of the disorder has led experts to suggest that the developmental transitions from adolescence to adulthood contributes to special risks experienced by girls, making them more vulnerable to this disease compared to boys. Both age and gender factors has also led experts to suggest that cultural variables, such as the thin body ideal for females and the relative lack of power among women, also has contributed to the disorder among young girls. This period marks a time of fast and strong emotional and physical changes for them. There is an elevated value placed on others acceptance and approval, and a heightened attention to outside influences and social messages about cultural standards. Body image emerges as a significant factor associated with health and well-being during this developmental phase, as they begin to pay attention more on their physical appearance. How adolescents formulate and define their ideal body image is influenced by personal, family, and cultural factors. Social influences, however, like media and mainstream culture, may display specific images and norms of beauty and attractiveness that differ from good health practices. Unfortunately, American society places great attention on looks and creates images unattainable by most. These images facilitate a negative message for young girls already struggling to fit in with a certain crowd or gain recognition amongst their peers. It is demoralizing for them to see images of celebrities who, themselves, are struggling to maintain a certain image, and imitate their destructive behavior. A good example demonstrates that fashion models weigh 23 percent less than the average female, although these representations of how a beautiful women should look are perceived to be normal(“National Association of Social Workers”). In this sense, media, television, journals, etc. need to be regulated as to who is hired to represent certain brands that are associated with beauty. These outlets need to be more responsible with the message they are sending to our young girls about what is considered to be beautiful and acceptable. Similarly, diet pills and the popularity of dieting have a big effect on the perceived self image. Whether it’s on television, in magazines or in newspapers, we are continuously exposed to the notion that losing weight and being skinny will make us happier, and can be achieved through certain diet plans. It is being proven over and over again that, for the long-term, regimented diet plans will not work, yet our society subscribes to the idea that they do. Pop-culture’s definition of the ideal body, together with the diet industry’s drive to make a lot of money creates a cycle of ads that try to convince us that if you lose weight, your life will be good. On the other hand, as long as we continue to buy into their false claims by purchasing these products, the more the diet industry will keep pushing their slogans at us.
The perceived idea of what is normal for a young girl to look like creates a standard and desire to imitate the behaviors seen on television causing them to develop symptoms of anorexia. Anorexia is marked by four main symptoms. First, the individual must be below 85 percent of ideal weight for their age, height, and gender. Second, there must be a dreadful fear of fat. Third, the person must believe that he or she is to be normal weight or even overweight despite being underweight for their body type. Finally, the victim should have no menstrual periods, or, in the case of males, show very low levels of testosterone. Adolescents with eating behaviors linked with anorexia such as, fasting, frequent exercise, and self-induced vomiting, are at a very high risk for anxiety and depression later in young adulthood. Alcohol and drug use are more common in patients with anorexia. Suicide has been estimated to account for as many as half the deaths in anorexia with studies showing up to a fifth of anorexic patients attempting suicide (Simon). Furthermore, heart disease is the most frequent medical cause of death in patients with severe anorexia. The biggest danger to the heart is from irregularity in the balance of minerals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, which are typically absorbed through the body’s fluid. The dehydration and starvation that happens with anorexia can lower fluid and mineral levels and create a condition known as electrolyte imbalance (Smolak).
Electrolytes are crucial for maintaining the electric currents needed for a normal heartbeat. An imbalance in these electrolytes can be extremely dangerous and even life threatening if fluids and minerals are not replaced. Heart problems are a particular risk when anorexia is compounded by bulimia and the use of drugs to induce vomiting. Additionally, severe anorexia has a long-term effect on bones and growth. Almost 90% of women with anorexia experience the loss of bone minerals, and 40% have osteoporosis, which is a more advanced loss of bone density (Grohol). Up to two-thirds of children and adolescent girls with anorexia fail to develop strong bones during their critical growing period. Boys with anorexia also suffer from stunted growth. The less the patient weighs, the more severe the bone loss. Women with anorexia who also binge-purge will face an even higher risk of complications due to bone loss. Bone loss in women is mainly caused by low estrogen levels that occur with anorexia. Weight gain, unfortunately, does not completely restore or reverse weakened bones. Only achieving regular menstruation as possible can protect women against permanent bone loss. The longer the eating disorder persists the more likely the bone loss will be permanent. Testosterone levels decline in boys as well, when they lose weight, which also can affect their bone density. In young boys with anorexia, regaining the weight produces some catch-up growth, but it may not produce full growth.
The damage done to the body, both mentally and physically is hard to overcome and treat, but many success cases exist. Some of the most common ways of treating anorexia include addressing the underlying emotional and mental health issues, some that often go back to childhood. The treatment approaches described below address helping a person with anorexia to comprehend how their self-image affects their eating behavior. Self-image can be seen as a main point of the change that a person with anorexia needs. Psychotherapy is the most widely used treatment for anorexia and has the largest research support. It involves a significant amount of time and money. Psychotherapy can be very helpful in addressing not only the patient’s eating disorder, but also their overall emotional health and happiness. The focus of psychotherapy treatment should be on addressing the underlying emotional and cognitive issues that result in the disordered eating. Adolescent girls need to be treated by another form of psychotherapy called family therapy. Family therapy helps the individual with anorexia see and understand the dysfunctional role they play within the family, and how their eating behaviors maintain that role. Family therapy is usually performed with the person who has anorexia and their family. However, in some instances, a few family therapy sessions may be held without the person suffering from anorexia being present. This may help the family understand the roles they are playing in supporting the disordered eating, and suggest ways the family can help the person with anorexia acknowledge the problem and seek out treatment.
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Reference Page "Adolescent Health." National Association of Social Workers. N.p., 01 10 2001. Web. 3 May 2011. Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne. MedicineNet.com. N.p., 03 04 2009. Web. 3 May 2011. Grohol, John."PsychCentral." Treatment For Anorexia. N.p., 07 20 2010. Web. 3 May 2011. Simon, Harvey. "Complications of Anorexia." University of Maryland Medical Center, 01 22 2009. Web. 3 May 2011. Smolak, Linda. "Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society." N.p., 02 15 2007. Web. 3 May 2011.