Skinny girl afraid of eating and too concerned for her body

Anorexia: the Silent Killer

Anorexia Nervosa is not only an eating disorder; it is a severe mental condition. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all the mental illnesses, but only 33 percent of those afflicted get any form of treatment.

Serious Damage to the Body

5-20 percent of all individuals suffering from anorexia will succumb to complications brought about by the condition. These complications can include loss of bone mass, loss of muscle mass, weakened heart muscles, heart damage, anemia, low white blood cell count, irregular menstrual cycle, and damage to the brain.

Depriving the body of nutrients can have long-term (even permanent) effects, especially if anorexia takes hold in the early stages of development or before adulthood. While most of the physical damage of anorexia can be treated with proper diet, bone-loss during the developmental stage can have life-long repercussions. Bone loss can occur in as early as six months, leading to stunted growth and osteoporosis. A 29-year-old woman in New Jersey, who suffered from anorexia since an early age, had the bone density and musculature equivalent to that of a 92-year old. Her condition was deemed terminal, and the courts allowed her request for end-of-life care. She refused to eat or drink until the very end.

Social Media and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are usually associated with low self-esteem, depression, and negative/unhealthy body image. A couple of decades ago, beauty magazines were blamed for promoting exacting beauty standards and body objectification. Today, social media is doing the same thing on a bigger scale and a more personal level. People who actively engage in social media are more likely to develop eating disorders. If you are among the top 25 percent in social media engagements, your chances of developing an eating disorder are doubled.

As people strive for more likes and followers, appearance and body image are elevated to the forefront. While there is nothing wrong with fitness or attempting to get your ideal body weight, some people take things too far with their #thinspiration or #thinspo. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have taken action and implemented restrictions on content that promote unhealthy body images or restrictive diets, but even typical content can trigger eating disorders.

Signs and Treatment Options

woman with eating disorder talking to her psychologist

Anorexia can be hard to spot as anorexics will often go through great lengths to hide their weight loss. They will usually keep social interactions at a minimum, partly because of negative body image and low self-esteem. Anorexia is very dangerous as individuals can spend months or years depriving their body of nutrition before they are diagnosed or treated.

Look for signs of drastic weight loss, social withdrawal, and aversion to eating in public. Anorexics may also wear layers of clothing and use makeup to conceal their weight loss. Dealing with anorexia requires extensive treatment plans that cover both the physical and mental aspects of the condition. Individual facilities that specialize in treating anorexia and other eating disorders are located all over the USA, with options for inpatient or outpatient programs.

Anorexia is not to be taken lightly. In just a few months, a restrictive diet can result in life-long repercussions. Look for the signs and talk to your loved ones. Early treatment will save lives and minimize the adverse effects of anorexia.