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Anorexia Nervosa
May 15, 2018

Anorexia Nervosa and Treatment in Places Where Appearance Matters Most

Eating Disorders like Anorexia Nervosa is a growing problem around the world, but especially in Western countries like the US. These are complex mental illnesses with multiple causes, and one of them is the widely held belief that being skinny is the only way to be beautiful.

We may avoid the negative influence of our culture’s narrow beauty standards (pun intended), it’s still incredibly difficult not to internalize the message that skinny=beautiful. Growing up surrounded by millions of advertisements and media images of super thin models makes us feel bad if we don’t look the same way. That bad feeling can make us turn to unhealthy and dangerous food behaviors in an attempt to lose weight.

Additionally, any career path that involves being on camera, performing on stage, or physical competition can increase the social pressure we feel to lose weight. Competitive places where many people work in entertainment like LA, California and New York City are environments where people feel even more pressure than usual to be skinny and ‘perfect.’

Causes of Anorexia Nervosa

While beauty standards are a major contributor to eating disorders, they are not the only reason Anorexia Nervosa happens. Afterall, not everyone who wants to lose weight develops this disorder.

There is no single, clear cause for anorexia but we do know that multiple factors can increase our risk for the disorder including:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Growing up with a parent or caretaker who suffered from their own negative body image issues
  • Growing up feeling powerless, perhaps due to an overly strict caretaker
    • Controlling one’s weight with eating disorder behaviors is one limited way to combat that feeling of powerlessness
  • Dieting at an early age
  • Genetic risk factors
  • Perfectionism

Many anorexics have a competitive, go-getter personality and are often successful in school and work before their illness causes them to get sick.

Millions of Americans suffer from Anorexia Nervosa which is an eating disorder defined by the following types of behavior:

  • Drastic food restriction
    • Refusing to eat food for long periods of time
    • Consistently not eating enough to nurture one’s body
  • Excessive exercising
  • Self-loathing due to an exaggerated negative body image
  • Preoccupation with food and weight gain
    • Ignoring or avoiding other aspects of a healthy life
  • Continuing to diet despite negative health consequences
  • Purging
    • This behavior is an attempt to get burn calories or get rid of food by vomiting, or misusing laxatives

While behaviors like these can make us lose weight, they come with a large price. Living with an eating disorder prevents us from living a happy life because we’re always feeling bad about the food, and continuing to use these behaviors which will eventually make us very, very sick.

Why Anorexia Treatment is So Important

The longer people live with anorexia nervosa, the greater risk they have for permanently harming their body. Also, the longer people go without treatment, the longer they will have to live with those painful emotions that go along with eating disorders.

People living with anorexia often drop to severely low body weights and do not take in nearly enough of the essential nutrients our bodies need. That’s why Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Not only do anorexics suffer from potentially lethal physical symptoms of starvation, but they also feel so unhappy in their skin, and alienated that 1/5 will die from suicide.

Treating Anorexia Nervosa requires a holistic approach. That means an anorexic person needs support with his or her physical health, emotional health and spirituality too.

  • Physical Health:

    • Treatment plans should include medical help to address any physical symptoms that have developed because of the eating disorder. Also, the anorexic and his or her treatment team should gradually work up to a healthy, nutritious diet to improve and maintain a healthy body long-term.
  • Emotional Health:

    • Anorexia Nervosa often comes along with severe symptoms of anxiety, depression and even OCD. The mental health symptoms can be treated with counseling, lifestyle changes, and learning new coping mechanisms to use after treatment.
  • Spirituality:

    • Anorexia Nervosa is more than just a medical diagnosis. As we mentioned earlier, anorexia is very much connected to what we believe about beauty, health, success and the life goals we set for ourselves. Treatment should help anorexics analyze and challenge those beliefs in a safe space so that unhealthy, weight-focused, short-term goals can be replaced with more rewarding, long term life plans.

California eating disorder treatment centers are a popular option for many families struggling with Anorexia Nervosa. Not only does this West Coast state have a wide variety of high-quality treatment options, but also California’s treatment providers will truly understand the intense social pressure to be skinny while living in appearance-focused cities like LA.

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