What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental condition characterised by abnormal bodyweight because of fear of weight gain. The condition involves emotional challenges as one surrounds themselves with an unrealistic body image. The condition affects everyone differently, though.
People with anorexia may have an urge to control their weight and maintain a body shape, using ways that tend to be affecting their lives or turn inauthentic.
In a significant number of cases, an individual may lose enough weight, have the characteristic traits of anorexia but may not have a low body mass index. It is called atypical anorexia nervosa.
The condition typically seems to be more prevalent in teenagers or adulthood, but it may also be experienced in preteenage or later in life. It is mostly diagnosed in adolescent women, but younger women may also have it.
Anorexia is not all about food. It is extremely unhealthy because it leads to emotional and stressful conditions. Realistically, it is a response to cope with stress. Many people often justify thinness with self-worth when they have anorexia nervosa.
To prevent weight gain, they may tend to put restrictions on their diet. They may manage their calorie by vomiting after eating or using diuretics or diet aids or do intense exercise. Even if they are losing weight, there is still a fear in their mind about the weight.
Over time, this stress affects your quality of life and becomes difficult to overcome. But with anorexia, you can always return to healthier eating habits and bring down the risk of serious complications.
The signs of anorexia are mostly related to not eating well. Anorexia also includes emotional and behavioral issues due to distorted perception about body weight and extreme fear of weight gain.
The signs can be tough to recognise initially, but the ideal definition of low body mass varies for individuals.
Physical symptoms of anorexia may include:
- Extreme weight loss
- Constipation and abdominal pain
- Insufficient blood counts
- Dizziness or fainting
- Discolouration of the fingers
- Brittle nails
- Hair that breaks or falls out easily
- Lanugo, which is fine, downy hair on the body
- Absence of menstruation
- Dry or yellowish skin
- Intolerance of cold
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of arms or legs
- Bad breathe and tooth decay in those who retch out frequently
- Loss of bone density
A person may also demonstrate emotional fluctuations, such as:
- Severely restricting dietary habits through dieting or fasting
- Exercising intensively
- Use of laxatives, enemas, diet aids or herbal products to induce vomit
- Frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat
- Denial of hunger or making excuses for not eating
- Restriction to a few certain "safe" foods that involve low fat and calories
- Rigid eating rituals
- Hesitant to eat in public
- Repeatedly weighing the body
- Self-sabotage behaviours
- Complaining attitude towards weight
- Wearing too many layers of cloth to hide fat
- Lack of emotions
- Social withdrawal
- Reduced sex drive
- Other signs of depression
- Associating food with guilt
The person may seem unaware of anything wrong with his eating habits. It usually affects everyone differently. Even though some individuals have signs of anorexia nervosa, they have low body weight, referred to as atypical anorexia nervosa.
There is no one definite cause of anorexia nervosa. Those with it usually have a negative body image that leads them to behaviours such as those linked to anorexia nervosa. They are constantly booked up with thoughts about weight loss.
Other than this, there are environmental, biological, and psychological thoughts linked that come into the picture.
Hormones play a role in the occurrence of anorexia nervosa. Studies have linked anorexia with serotonin, a chemical secreted in the brain.
In some cases, anorexia nervosa also run in the family lines, which conveys that it is partially hereditary.
Environmental factors like fat-shaming may contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa. Social media is yet another factor that has raised the reliance on the imaginary life we have been living with.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) stick to a strict diet and exercise regimen than those with anorexia nervosa. This is because they are obsessed with certain behaviours.
Other causes may include:
- low self-esteem
- having a personality that tends toward obsession or perfectionism
- sexual abuse
- a history of dieting
- historical trauma, such as racism
Ayurvedic treatment for anorexia nervosa
In the Ayurvedic context, anorexia is named Aruchi. It is a disease characterised by the aggravation of all the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Ayurveda has divided Aruchi or anorexia into five different types:
- Vataj Aruchi: Characterized by astringent taste in the mouth, it is caused by Vata aggravation.
- Pittaj Aruchi: This is caused by Pitta dosha, and one can notice a bitter taste in the mouth when this happens.
- Kaphaj Aruchi: One may lose appetite and discover a sweet taste in the mouth when Kapha imbalance causes anorexia nervosa.
- Sanbipathaja Aruchi: The main cause is an imbalance of all three doshas.
- Agantuja Aruchi: The signs are similar to Aruchi caused by Vata imbalance.
There are herbs, holistic procedures and therapies that work on anorexia nervosa. All the procedures work on balancing the body and expanding its natural healing capacity. When your body has the capacity to heal naturally, the immune system works, and doshas remain balanced. This also makes sure that toxins do not accumulate in the cells and tissues and you remain healthy.