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Anorexia Reflections is a personal journey, written by someone who has suffered with the illness for more than

twenty five years. I will guide you through explanations of the various signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa, possible causes of this disorder and its effects on family and friends. Dig a little deeper into the site, and you will also find information on co-occuring disorders such as anxiety and depression, and how they relate to the different eating disorders. It's no secret that eating disorders can be fatal. Eating disorder facts indicate that "ED's" (eating disorders) have the highest mortality rate of any other psychological illness. But even with that staggering statistic, there still aren't many people who truly understand the emotional complexities or medical complications of anorexia specifically. The disease baffles most professionals, so it's understandable that us "regular folks" would have an even more difficult time comprehending it all.While I was at the eating disorder treatment facility, I was shocked to learn about the dangers of disordered eating, and how ruthless it can be. I believe that there are many, many misconceptions regarding this illness. Id like to share with you some of my experiences, and try to help unravel the mystery of this disorder from the perspective of the sufferer.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF ANOREXIA? SOME ANOREXIA SIGNS ARE SHOCKING! We can all recognize signs of anorexia when they're obvious -- such as troubled teenagers, or girls with anorexia who obsess about "thinspiration". However, there's a lot more to discovering anorexia nervosa, and you need to be "in the know". Quite often the first signs of anorexia are those that start as an obsession withthinspiration -- which is actually a starvation diet -- but by the time you think that your loved one might have a problem, they may already be well entrenched in their eating disorder. So then, what is anorexia, exactly? The early signs of anorexia become evident when sufferers exhibit depression warning signs. Teens and preteenagers might show an obsession with society's perception of the ideal body image, and try to reach their own goals for the ideal body shape. All of this is in addition to any physical anorexia symptoms that could be starting to show. There are certain behavioral changes that may be present in an individual who's suffering. Some even experience impulse control disorder. The following is by no means a complete list, but these are some of the most common.

ANOREXIC BEHAVIOR: Someone who's suffering may show some, all or possibly even none of the signs of anorexia, or anorexic behaviors listed below - although I suspect the latter is not likely the case. I became very, very good at hiding anorexia and the fact that my body had gone into starvation mode. One of the ways I could accomplish this was by skipping meals. Quite often I would say that I had already eaten so that I could keep avoiding mealtimes. Here are some other symptoms that I experienced personally, and you may want to be weary of if you suspect that your loved one may be developing an eating disorder:
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Cognitive distortions wearing loose or baggy clothes most of the time Chewing and spitting - (also categorized under EDNOS) Obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms - counting every calorie in food Distorted body image Social isolation and afraid to eat around others cutting out certain foods little by little, Starvation diet Laxative abuse - obsessed with weight; on the scale many times a day Skin picking, chronic skin picking (CSP), dermatillomania Low self-esteem; Self hatred Delayed puberty Feels like a failure, even though s/he's very successful Tends to be a rigid perfectionist Moving food around the plate to make it appear as though more had been eaten Secretive eating (or not) - tossing out food or hiding it when nobody is looking Slow metabolism - weight gain, even though very little is eaten Obsessive exercise; exercise addiction


Anorexia symptoms arent always visible. The emotional effects of anorexia causes a great deal of pain. Because anorexics usually try to hide their emotional symptoms, it adds to the overall complications of eating disorders. When we think about the symptoms of anorexia, we tend to forget (or not even recognize) the extent of emotional torment thatanorexia sufferers are going through. I'm willing to guess that for most people, there are specific thoughts that come to mind with regards to the gaunt, emaciated appearance ofanorexics: "She (he) is so skinny!" or"They never want to eat!" are typical statements of frustration from friends and family. While these reactions are common, it's important to remember that there are many anorexic people who do not appear to be underweight, even though they are gravely ill. Recent studies show that these individuals have the potential to be sicker than someone who appears stick-thin. An interesting note is that most of these people also fall into the category of EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), which is a classification within the many types of eating disorders. Anorexia can present itself differently in each individual, especially with regards to the physical symptoms of anorexia. However, there are some fairly common threads with regards to emotional and cognitive functions.


To include extreme dieting, complaining of a fat tummy and looking for tips under anorexia symptoms is stating the obvious, but it's a huge problem. Health risks of dieting and living the anorexia lifestyle are:
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excessive weight loss over exercising self starvation


Cognitive distortions are very subtle anorexia symptoms, and they occur early in people with eating disorders. These cognitive changes cause irrational thinking and "weird thoughts". Having a distorted body image is one of the most common, but these thought processes can take many forms. There could be signs of addiction, such as an addiction to food in ways that only anorexics could exemplify. You may also notice some odd, obsessive behaviors such as mirror checking, hoarding food, or calorie counting.


Anorexia and depression are examples of co-occurring disorders, or comorbidity meaning that they can exist at the same time. Women with anorexia may engage in self cutting, and/or experience social anxiety, which can result in social isolation. Social anxiety can trigger panic attacks in some individuals. If this sounds like someone you know, it might be helpful to be familiar with anxiety attacks symptoms. It's obvious that medical complications of anorexia are not the only issue. Quite often the first signs of anorexia are a result of strong or traumatic emotional experiences. One thing leads to another, and serious anorexia symptoms begin to manifest.


The causes of anorexia and other eating disorders are dynamic and multi-dimensional. This means that the triggers for the illness are constantly changing in relation to the person's emotions and/or environment. With that in mind, trying to pinpoint a single cause for these illnesses is futile. Research has shown that a combination of society, individual predispositions and family relationships can all play a role in the development and maintenance of anorexia and other eating disorders. Add to that any stressful life events that will serve as anorexia triggers as a way of coping with change, conflict, developmental changes and trauma. Once those life events take place, the wheels are set in motion. The eating disorder is then perpetuated by a combination of personal experiences, such as family reactions, lack of support systems, bad experiences with treatment and so on. What also needs to be considered is that, in my case, the anorexia brought with it its own biological complications with regards to starvation symptoms. It was pretty much like having two diseases working against me at the same time. These factors just magnified the underlying problems and further entrenched me in my eating disorder.

The following are some examples of society/cultural issues, individual personality traits, traumatic stress and family factors that could be contributing factors to an eating disorder:
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Sociocultural - we are obsessed with thinness and weight loss Identity crisis - searching for an identity, "Where do I fit in?" Pro ana websites trigger further obsession with weight issues Eating disorders and the media battle it out in the promotion of cultural ideas of beauty - no fat allowed Personality disorders such as antisocial personality disorder Pro anorexia and dieting tips - the idea that a starvation diets will help you lose weight Friends or family members don't understand how to help, or even how to define anorexia

NOTE: Just because "family factors" are mentioned as one of the things that could contribute to anorexia, it DOES NOT mean that anyone is to blame!

EXPLORING THE MAY PASSIBLE ANOREXIA CAUSES Pinning anorexia causes to a single issue or incident is impossible. Emotional insecurity, society, or peer pressure can contribute to anorexias many causes. The truth is, nobody can say for sure what causes eating disorders of any kind. However, verbal bullying, or even dysfunctional family relationships may be contributing factors. I recently read an eating disorder article about anorexia causes, it talked about the ongoing research with regards to anorexia and genetics. Of the people who are already at risk for developing anorexia, as many as 56% of those cases are related to genetics. But what about the other 44%? It's natural for a lot of us to want to help people with eating disorders - fix whatever needs to be fixed to make life better for them. In order to do that, we try to assign a reason or cause to the illness. With that information, we figure that we can develop and plan to make it go away. If only it were that simple. With anorexia, causes are multi-factoral, which makes it nearly impossible to come up with a cure that works for everyone. Still, trying to understand at least some of the causes of anorexia nervosa will help you to help your friend and/or loved one. Most of the issues mentioned here are situations where the anorexic has little or no control over his/her situation. This is a major factor, considering the fact that most patients use an eating disorder as a way of feeling in control of something in their lives.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSES OF EATING DISORDERS Anorexia causes and causes of eating disorders can come in the form of psychological issues, some of which may have a genetic component. Depression signs and symptoms could be present at the onset of the eating disorder as a result of genetics. Depression warning signs may also show up later as one of theeffects of starvation. Anorexia could also develop as one of the many effects of bullying, which would (without a doubt) create major self esteem issues. Other psychological or emotional causes:
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Emotional insecurity Emotional immaturity

SIDE EFFECTS OF ANOREXIA Side effects of anorexia can include brittle bones, iron deficiency anemia, emotional disconnect and more.

So how do you recognize anorexia side effects before they cause serious health risks? You can get a good head start by learning about anorexia effects, which are monumental. Complications range from emotional to physical to medical to social, and they're all so intertwined that sometimes it's hard to "see the forest for the trees". In terms of the physical health risks of anorexia, sufferers are battling two kinds of health problems
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Those caused by a starvation diet, and life-threatening weight loss measures Those brought on by the effects of starvation itself

The consequences of drastic weight loss tactics could be fatal, whereas the effects of starvation are typically reversible through a medically supervised re-feeding process. For me, my only means of controlling weight was through pure restriction. I never used any of those hazardous forms of weight control. However, my side effects of anorexia got to the point where I could not digest any solid foods at all. I was in extreme pain whenever I tried to eat, no matter what it was. Im sure theres a fancy medical term for that condition, but it was never given to me. The way my doctor explained it to me (simply put) is that the digestive system is made up of a series of muscles that all work together to process food. Since one of the physical effects of anorexia nervosa is muscle atrophy, my digestive system basically just shut down. I could no longer digest food, even if I wanted to.


Anorexia statistics can be dull and boring to read (or write) about. However, statistics on anorexia are an important indication of where we're going with this illness, and where we've come from. Eating disorders and anorexia statistics show that disordered eating behaviors can be fatal without treatment. As many as 20 percent of anorexia sufferers will die. With therapy, that number falls to approximately 3 percent. But, did you know that eating disorders statistics indicate that only 1 in 10 people actually receive treatment? There are at least a couple of reasons for this. The first obstacle is that the costs to enter an eating disorder treatment center are around $1,000 USD per day, usually more. Anorexia statistics also show that getting coverage for the cost of treatment is often a nightmare.As a result, a large percentage of people end up paying out of their own pockets by re-mortgaging their homes, dipping into savings accounts, or whatever else they're able to do to help themselves or their loved one. The length of stay at at eating disorder treatment center can be calculated on an individual basis, but the average ranges from 30 to 60 days, at minimum. Obviously that cost can vary, depending on where you go, or any other number of factors. Secondly, anorexics and disordered eaters can be resistant to going to an eating disorder clinic. They may feel that doing so would invade their privacy ("secrecy"), and it also makes them feel as if they're losing control over their life and decision making processes. In some ways, this is actually a good thing -- a necessary evil.

ANOREXIA STATISTICS - HOW LONG THE ILLNES CAN LAST? One of the questions that I'm often asked is,"How long will it take before you get well?" It's such an awkward moment ;) I have no idea how you would define "well" with regards to an eating disorder, but according to anorexia statistics, it can take a few years in some cases. There is no cure (that I'm aware of), so what does "get well" really mean? Here are some facts about the average length of time suffering from an eating disorder. Since I've been battling my 'ED' for over 25 years, I am clearly not part of these anorexia statistics:

77% endure their illness for 1-15 years o -- From that 77%:  Those who suffer for 11-15 years = 16%.  Those who suffer for 6-10 years = 31%.  Those who suffer for 1-5 years = 30%.