Looking at anorexia nervosa Essay

Attempting to comprehend why society demands a high standard for a slender appearance is bewildering. Some individuals take extreme measures to acquire this desired look, assuming that if they achieve this look the pain within will disappear. For most men and women suffering from anorexia there are deeper, more complex emotional/mental issues to be resolved. Anorexia is common destructive eating disorder that individuals can develop overtime by giving into their deranged thoughts and perceptions. My research paper will describe in detail the actions and behaviors that someone who is suffering from Anorexia Nervosa demonstrates.

I will be discussing the social attitudes towards the illness from the past to the present. Furthermore, I will give information on different ways to treat Anorexia Nervosa and also preventative measure that can be taken.

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Abnormal vs. Normal behavior

It’s very difficult to give an exact definition between what’s normal and what’s abnormal. We have learned in class about the “4 D’s”, an accepted way to decipher whether any behavior fits the profile of abnormal.

The “4 D’s” are Deviance, Distress, Dysfunction, and Danger. Deviance is abnormal behavior, thoughts and emotions that are different from society’s ideas about proper functioning. Definition of distress is great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble. Normally, behavior has to cause distress in order to be classified as abnormal. Dysfunction refers to whether or not the behaviors keep them from carrying out daily living. Daily living is categorized as: employment, self care, hygiene/dress, relationships, housing, and food. Danger means if the behavior puts themselves or other in harm. Anorexia Nervosa fits into all of the “4 D’s.”


Behaviors and thoughts of Anorexia Nervosa include: A distortion of body image, a relentless hunt for being thin, an inability to maintain a healthy body weight, a consuming fear of gaining weight, and extremely scarce eating. To lose weight, people with anorexia force themselves to vomit, misuse enemas and laxatives, and diet and exercise excessively. A person with anorexia becomes so obsessed with becoming thin that they weigh themselves repeatedly still viewing themselves as fat. The denial of this condition is tremendous. The continual need for attention and low self esteem guides anorexics to obsessive diet and starvation as a method to control feelings and actions regarding their emotions. Many anorexics deprive themselves of life’s joys and happiness because they feel unworthy.


Unfortunately, there is no single cause of Anorexia Nervosa making it difficult to target the reason why someone may suffer from them. Distressful feelings associated with Anorexia Nervosa include; low self esteem, depression, loneliness, anger, anxiety, emptiness, inadequacy, perfectionism, feelings of lack of control, and setting rigid standards for oneself. The outside appearance of someone with anorexia does not dictate the amount of physical and mental turmoil they are enduring.

Dysfunction and Danger

The following illnesses make it almost impossible to function in regular daily life. The numerous medical consequences are quite serious and usually result in fatality. “A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recovers.” Death is caused by any or a combination of the following: internal bleeding, heart attack or heart failure, lung collapse, stroke, kidney failure, liver failure, pancreatitis, gastric rupture, perforated ulcer, and suicide. Other repercussions include; diabetes, blood sugar level disruptions, chronic fatigue syndrome, cramps, bloating constipation, diarrhea, incontinence, dehydration, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, hair loss, mood swings and depression, osteoporosis, electrolyte imbalances, acid reflux disorders, hypertension and hypotension, insomnia, infertility, anemia, kidney infections, malnutrition, ulcers, seizures, and tearing of the esophagus. As you can see there are various effects and some of them have not even been named. Women with Anorexia Nervosa often miss menstrual cycles due to lack of nutrition. Gum disease can occur from consistent stomach acid exposed on the gums. Dental problems such as severe decay, decalcification of teeth, and erosion of enamel are results of countless purges. Callused fingers are also the aftermath for self induced vomiting. Overtime individuals suffering from Anorexia Nervosa can develop edema, defined as swelling of the soft tissues in the stomach area that can be caused by laxative use. Muscle atrophy is common in sufferers of Anorexia Nervosa; it is where there are no more muscles left in your body due to it feeding off itself. People with the Anorexia Nervosa disorder often develop excess hair on their back, face, and arms due to the body’s protective mechanism to keep a person warm during periods of starvation and malnutrition.

Social Attitudes

Cultural pressures and norms that place extreme value/emphasis on physical appearance or obtaining the “perfect body” rather than inner strengths and qualities are major causes of eating disorders. At risk teens are more likely to begin chronic dieting due to the persistent media messages that encourage diets. In 2006, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. conducted a survey that examined the perceptions about an individual with anorexia nervosa relative to perceptions about a healthy person and a person with another mental or non-mental illness. The results were mostly negative. Participants believed the person with Anorexia Nervosa was most to blame for his/her condition. They thought that the people who had the Anorexia Nervosa disorder were “able to pull him/herself together if he/she wanted to”, and that they act this way for attention and that biological factors were least relevant in developing the illness. These attitudes may contribute to reluctance to seek treatment among individuals with Anorexia Nervosa.


Fortunately, there is hope. Early intervention can enhance recovery. Just like other addictions the first step is admittance and acceptance of the problem. Depending on the severity of their disorder, outpatient and inpatient treatments are available. Someone who has started to see the medical effects of the illness in their body may need to be hospitalized. Long term residential treatment is also available to those with uncompromising symptoms. The most effective way to treat an eating disorder is Cognitive, Behavioral therapy along with medical and nutritional support and guidance that must be individualized. The supervising therapist should specialize in eating disorders. This type of therapy theory is that thinking, questioning and doing (with practice) leads to the changes needed for recovery. Learning to change the way you think about yourself will make you change the way you treat yourself. Changing negative thoughts and words to positive are key factors in this type of therapy. Using humor, role playing, and homework and word-work in attacking shameful feelings and feelings of guilt are combined with the effort to make changes in thinking and behaviors. Cognitive therapy aids patients in the underlying issues of their disorder and behavior while supplying them with tools to cope with daily life. Pharmacology such as antidepressants and anti-psychotics are sometimes used to fix chemical imbalances that exist in the patients’ brain. However, these have now been proven to be extremely effective especially if it’s the only treatment being used for this disorder.


Unfortunately, there are not many measures you can take to prevent yourself from Anorexia Nervosa besides cutting down on magazines and television or anything that portrays an unrealistic idea of beauty. As a parent, you can have family dinner together and encourage healthy eating habits, and have a healthy relationship with your child to prevent them from getting this disorder. Negative family influences play a big role in activating an eating disorder. Poor parenting through out a child’s life, even as young as infancy can increase risks. Over critical parents, especially concerning weight, have a big impact on the children’s self esteem. How often a family eats together may influence whether a child develops an eating disorder. “A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that young girls who ate 3 – 4 meals per week with their families were about half as likely to engage in extreme weight control behaviors as girls who ate family meals less often.” In addition, parents of people Anorexia Nervosa are more likely to have substance abuse problems, alcoholism, and/or psychiatric problems. Problems during pregnancy or after birth have been associated with the development of an eating disorder. Pregnancy issues, including maternal anemia, maternal diabetes, and maternal high blood pressure during pregnancy heighten the risk of anorexia. While placental tissue death raises the risk of Anorexia Nervosa. After birth complications, including below-normal birth weight and length, early difficulties eating, heart problems, and low response to stimuli amplify the risk of Anorexia Nervosa.


Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder that is composed of a variety of abnormal behaviors that are brought out by the unhealthy thinking. This thinking is brought by the media, the individual’s family/friends, personal experiences, and much more. This disorder has been occurring for a long time but according to my research, wasn’t really viewed as a disorder until the 1900’s. Not until the 1930’s was it recognized as a mental/emotional disorder. Studies have shown that there is not a lot of sympathy for Anorexia Nervosa sufferers. Treatment is always determinant by how much the person wants to help themselves, and if they are denial or not. However, it is very possible for a bright future if the person is willing and open for treatment.

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