She was beautiful, striking really, but anorexia nervosa symptoms?
It was pretty hard to believe. Of course, you 'd never know it by looking at her ...Nicole seemed to have it all.
Tall and willowy, so easy to talk to, everybody loved Nicki. She had a gorgeous boyfriend Michael, who was absolutely crazy about her. A typical overachiever, she was in several honors programs; a member of her high school dance team, she even had a job at the local Dairy Queen.
From all outward appearances, Nicole was your typical all American girl, deliriously happy and well on her way to a happy and successful life.
But underneath that pretty exterior, was a scared, sick little girl, a girl who felt out of control and under tremendous pressure.
Nicole had anorexia nervosa.
-Skip ahead to Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms
-It is estimated that 1 out of every 200 women in the United States has symptoms of anorexia nervosa .
The rate is even higher for girls in their teens.
-Bulimia is even more common, and more likely to go untreated.
More than 85% of anorexics show symptoms before the age of 20.
-Over 90% of all cases are female.
Nicole was one of them. I knew her in high school and as her illness progressed, I watched her slowly waste away.
The images of her skeletal figure, just before her parents sent her to the anorexia nervosa treatment center, still haunt me. I can still picture her gaunt frame. The way the skin on her face seemed to be pulled so tight against her cheekbones, you could see the outline of her teeth.
I can remember watching her, sitting in the school cafeteria picking at her food, eating little if any.
It wasn't until later, much later, that I realized I had never actually seen her take a bite. All she did was move the food around, then throw it away and leave the cafeteria.
I really loved Nicki, she was my best friend.
Back then though, in the early 1980's, eating disorders like anorexia were just beginning to receive national media attention. We didn't know yet about all of the anorexia nervosa symptoms, let alone the causes of anorexia nervosa.
-Now we knew the name, and unfortunately we associated it with Nicki.
I remember the whispers and stares that followed Nicole as she moved through the school halls. That empty space behind those crystal blue eyes. I remember being so afraid of losing her.
The Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
The many causes of anorexia nervosa although not completely understood, are based on social, psychological, family influence and genetic factors.
-Social "peer pressure" can be immense in adolescence and a strong desire to be with the "in crowd" can lead to anorexia nervosa symptoms. "Being thin like my friends"
-Psychological causes of anorexia nervosa include; low self-esteem, depression, the need to be perfect, to be in control.
-Family pressures can start teenagers down the wrong path when too much value is given to appearance in regard to their weight.
Physical, sexual or emotional abuse can be obvious factors.
Even caring too much and smothering a young person can be root causes of anorexia nervosa, as the teen searches for independence, and to be in control of their own lives.
-Genetics has been shown to be a link in some cases of anorexia. If a relative has been affected with it, the chances are much greater that a family member will also be.
-Life events can also act as triggers to those that are the most vulnerable. Events such as a bad breakup or the death of a loved one. Perhaps even just the everyday stresses of growing up or having a hard time with school work, or failing a very important exam.
-The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 6% of the serious cases will die and only about 50% of anorexics report ever being fully cured.
-Approximately 10% of all anorexics will die within 10 years of becoming anorexic, and about 20% will die within 20 years.
-The good news is this: 75% of those with Anorexia Nervosa who seek treatment will see improvement!
Of course, we didn't know all of that way back then. If we had, perhaps we could have intervened on some level, and spared Nicole at least some of the pain and suffering, that ultimately brought her to seek treatment of her anorexia nervosa symptoms.
-Perhaps she would not have attempted to take her own life, and just maybe she wouldn't have sustained the permanent damage to her heart that she still battles with even to this day.
I never saw Nicole "fat." I never even saw her carrying a few extra pounds. To me she always looked slim, but fit, at least before her eventual crash.
-I knew nothing of the tug of war going on inside her, the turmoil and the obsession that drove her, convincing her that she could never be too thin. Nicki told me later that she felt out of control, pressured to succeed, to be "miss perfect."
Most of that pressure came from within her, and it dominated her every action.
-Nicki was the classic perfectionist, and it very nearly killed her.
Doctors now have a much better system for identifying anorexia nervosa symptoms. Unfortunately more often than not, it isn't until there is a health problem that anorexics end up seeking out a physician.
-Therefore, it is crucial that parents, educators and others who work with young people, become acquainted with the signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa.
The ability to identify anorexia nervosa symptoms in their early stages could not only save lives, but may also save the victims from permanent damage to their vital organs.
Types of Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms
Anorexia nervosa symptoms typically fall into three different categories. (two main types) Anorexics may display one or more symptoms from just one of these categories, from two of the categories or from all three.
-However, having familiarity with the signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa can often open a door to further exploration, which in turn can result in getting the person in front of a doctor sooner, and getting the help they need in the earliest possible stages of the illness.
Anorexia Nervosa Symptoms: Body Image and Appearance
Anorexia Symptom Type: Food and Eating Behavior
Anorexia Symptom Type: Purging
-Either of these main types can include extreme exercising. Anorexics can have a grueling routine that seems more to punish the body than to get it in shape. Typically a very heavy cardio regimen aimed at burning calories and losing weight. Anorexics will often exercise through any illness or injury.
The Physical Effects of Anorexia Nervosa
Bloating, cramps, constipation and poor sleep patterns are only some of the anorexia nervosa effects.
-Many of the physical effects of anorexia nervosa symptoms are actually caused by malnutrition from self-starvation. The loss of calcium in the body can lead to osteoporosis. Teeth and gum problems (from the hydrochloric acid of purging) are often associated with anorexia, as well as the absence of a menstrual cycle in females.
Dizziness, weakness and fainting are also among the physical effects of anorexia nervosa.
-Over time, anorexics suffer abnormally slow heart rates and low blood pressure. This can have adverse effects on the heart muscle and increase the chances of future heart failure.
Other physical effects of anorexia nervosa include thin hair, hair loss, and kidney problems.
While anorexia nervosa symptoms and their effects may seem extreme, many anorexics go undetected for a very long time. They can be quite adept and very resourceful at hiding their activity.
Nicki hid her gaunt frame and dramatic weight loss by wearing, what she called "chic" clothes. (we called them her way too baggy clothes)
-That is why it is so important that parents, educators and others who work with the young, know about the anorexia nervosa symptoms.
When a red flag is noticed, further exploration can occur and if anorexia is suspected, then medical intervention and a course of action can begin.
-Please, if you suspect your daughter, a fellow student or a friend to be anorexic, don't be afraid to speak up!
You just might be saving their lives.
-Remember, 75% do show significant improvement with treatment.
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