Anorexia nervosa literally means loss of appetite but this is a misnomer: A person with anorexia nervosa is hungry, but he or she denies the hunger because of an irrational fear of becoming fat. Anorexia nervosa is often characterized by self-starvation, food preoccupation and rituals, compulsive exercising, a low body weight, and an absence of menstrual cycles. Untreated, anorexia can be fatal. It is not a “fad” which the victim will outgrow if left alone. The death of pop singer Karen Carpenter at age 32 was attributed to heart failure, following her eight-year battle with anorexia. The most common cause of death in a long-time anorexic is low serum potassium, which can cause an irregular heartbeat.
Source: ANAD (National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders) www.anad.org
DSM-IV Technical Criteria for Anorexia
- Refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height (e.g., weight loss leading to maintenance of body weight less than 85% of that expected; or failure to make expected weight gain during period of growth, leading to body weight less than 85% of that expected.
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight.
- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight.
- In post-menarcheal females (who haven’t yet gone through menopause) amenorrhea – the absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles.
Types Of Anorexia:
During the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has not regularly engaged in binge-eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)
Binge-Eating Type or Purging Type
During the current episode of Anorexia Nervosa, the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating OR purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Association
What Do I Do Now?
If you meet the criteria for anorexia, it is crucial that you find someone to talk to immediately. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder (meaning more people die from anorexia than from any other mental disorder). The more weight you lose and the less you eat, the less you are able to be reasonable about how you are living, and the more susceptible you are to allowing this disorder to take over and even end your life. If you don’t believe you can actually die from anorexia, visit http://www.somethingfishy.org/memorial/memorial.php for a reality check.
- If you are seeking Christ-centered treatment, contact us for referrals to Christian programs that specialize in treating eating disorders.
- Check out our videos on this subject by searching by keyword ‘anorexia’.
- Read our “Chasing Freedom” blog for encouragement from others just like you who are fighting ED and winning.
- Read the Finding Treatment article on this site to get ideas about who to talk to.
- Visit www.somethingfishy.org, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or www.aacc.net to search for a counselor, therapist or treatment center in your area.
- Visit your primary care physician or ob/gyn and tell them exactly how you’re eating/exercising/dieting.
- If you are under eighteen, tell your parents or an adult you can trust about your fears of weight gain and/or obsession with thinness.
- If you are a concerned parent or friend, please take these steps on their behalf. Also search “helping others” here on the site for resources to help you love them well.
We can’t stress enough the importance of taking steps toward getting help. Your very life could be at risk, and it’s important to get some objective help and advice. Please, take these steps now.
God is present in your situation, even if you don’t sense Him there. Here are some of our favorite verses to encourage you right now…
“Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Prov. 23:18 (ESV)
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1 (ESV)
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” Heb. 4:16 (ESV)