More people than ever before are struggling with eating disorders. In fact, in the U.S., up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder.
Despite the widespread epidemic, only 10 percent of those struggling with an eating disorder ultimately seek treatment for it.
The Truth About Anorexia
Anorexia nervosa is defined as an obsessive desire to lose weight, generally leading to a refusal to consume food.
Over time, your body begins to break down due to starvation and lack of nutrients. The effects can include dangerous weight loss, along with the loss of bone mass and healthy heart muscle. Anorexia can also lead to dangerously low white blood cell counts, making it next to impossible for your body to fight off infection or illness.
While the effects of long-term anorexia are well-documented, there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding this eating disorder and related complications that are less widely known among the public.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
In an effort to reveal just how devastating and unrelenting this eating disorder can be to the human body, let’s take a look at 7 things no one tells you about battling anorexia:
- You Can’t Do Basic Things: Because the brain of an anorexic works more slowly due to lack of sugars and nourishment, the slower reflexes make it unsafe to drive a car. Even taking a bath could spark a heart attack for those below a certain mass index because heavy water pressure could be too much strain on the heart.
- It’s Potentially Fatal: The U.K. eating disorder charity Beat reports that 20 percent of those suffering from anorexia will die, either from effects related to the condition or suicide. The human body has to be fed; without proper nutrition, it cannot function for long. And starving yourself to death is ultimately a very long and very painful process. It’s certainly not worth dying for.
- It’s a Competitive Illness: “Thin-spiration” and “pro-ana” websites, in which users post photos of their journey to reach unhealthy weight loss goals, can be extreme triggers. They prey on the sickness of visitors and encourage them to consume even less food as a way to reach the dangerous weights the illness considers “ideal.” These websites are a perfect example of how misery loves company.
- Body Functions are Severely Impacted: For those who eat healthy, getting a cut or bruise is generally no big deal. Wounds heal up quickly and discolored bruising fades in a matter of days. For those with anorexia, however, cuts and bruises take much longer to heal. That’s because the body is lacking in the nutrients it requires. Small trips and falls often leave large marks that can linger for months at a time.
- Eating Hurts: Though it may sound strange, after being starved of food for long periods of time, eating can be extremely painful. Literally, the food takes up space and hurts your stomach. Those in recovery find this out the hard way after eating such small quantities of food for long periods of time. It can be a particularly terrifying experience – especially if you don’t know what’s going on or why you’re in pain.
- You’re Not Alone: Unfortunately, stigma and shame are solidly attached to anorexia. And there’s a misguided belief this eating disorder doesn’t affect men, when in fact, about 11 percent of those who deal with the disease are men. And seven out of 10 men will never seek help for their eating disorder. The important thing to remember is that there are resources and support groups available to help you get healthy.
- You Can Recover: Recovering from anorexia can be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. Support groups play a key role in helping to establish new, healthy friendships that are based on encouragement and health. As you begin to gain weight and your body rebounds from the lack of nutrients, you’ll start to recognize that person in the mirror and truly feel like yourself again.
Learn more about helping an anorexic loved one get help.
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