Abnormal eating and an unhealthy preoccupation with ones body image is the hallmark of an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa is a type of eating disorder where the individual is at least 15% below his/her expected body weight and is using various methods to stop them from gaining weight. This disorder mainly affects adolescent girls and young women. There are two categories of anorexia nervosa: restricting and binge-eating/purging. The restricting type does just what the name implies: they restrict what they eat. By severely under eating, they are able to maintain a low weight. The binge-eating/purging type eats much more food at one time than most people would eat in the same context. For example, a snack might be a whole pack of Oreo cookies with a pint of ice cream. Purging then follows this, which is an attempt to reduce the calories consumed by vomiting or using diuretics, laxatives, or enema, the process of injecting liquid into the rectum through the anus to induce evacuation of the bowels.
According to the DSM-IV-TR, to be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, the symptoms must meet four criteria. The first is a refusal to obtain or maintain a healthy body weight. An unhealthy body weight is considered to be 85% less than what’s expected at whatever period of growth the individual is at. The second criterion is an intense fear of becoming fat or gaining weight, even though they are underweight. This fear is the primary reason why a person would refuse to be at a healthy body weight. They don’t think they have a problem and they don’t see being underweight as something to be fixed. For them the problem is taking in too many calories, which can lead to feelings of worthlessness and despair. The third criterion for diagnosing an individual with anorexia nervosa is if they have a distorted view of their body image. People with anorexia often feel that they are bigger and fatter than they actually are, which is why they go through so many measures to lose weight. The final condition for this disorder is the suppression of menstruation, which is called amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is determined after the female has missed three consecutive menstrual cycles. For children and adolescents who have not started menstruating, this criterion does not apply to them. If a woman has to take hormones for her to have a period, she is considered to have amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is seen as criteria for anorexia nervosa because excessively low body weight interrupts the functions of hormones in the body, which can disrupt the process of ovulation.
Unfortunately seven million women in America have an eating disorder. 95% of those who have this disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25 making anorexia the third most chronic illness among adolescents. Half of the deaths that occur with those afflicted by anorexia nervosa are from suicide; others are from medical complications of the disorder. These medical complications come about because a person with...