Anorexia nervosa [...] why it is harmful to be anorexic and what the outcome on health and well being can be if a person is anorexic. Anorexia is a perplexing disease that can destroy the lives of people who suffer from it - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Many famous personalities have suffered from anorexia, including singer Karen Carpenter who died as a result of complications from the disease, and more recently, teen star Mary-Kate Olsen. As anorexia makes news, more young people become familiar with the disease and how it can permanently affect the body, the mind, and the emotions.
What is anorexia nervosa? Anorexia is a chronic disease that affects a variety of people. Most people believe that is only affects young women, especially teens, but it can affect men, young adults, and older women, too (Lucas 3). It is classified as an eating disorder, and many people think it is mostly a psychiatric disorder. However, most experts now agree that anorexia develops as a result of a wide variety of reasons, including genetics, physiological, and even outside and peer forces. One study has shown that some anorexics may actually have a genetic link to the disease. Reporter Karen Goldberg Goff writes, "Dr. Michael Strober, lead author of the study, says nearly 12% of women with severe anorexia had female relatives who had had some symptoms of the disease. Four percent of the women with bulimia also had relatives with bulimia" (Goff 4). This could mean that many young women are genetically prone to the disease, and so it makes it easier for them to begin self-starvation and excessive exercise. Unfortunately, it is fairly widespread in our country. Researchers note, "The American Anorexia and Bulimia Association [AABA] (2001) estimates that five million U.S. women suffer from some form of eating disorder, 15% of Americans have eating disordered attitudes, and 1,000 people will die each year from eating disorders" (Lager and McGee). It seems that anorexia can literally destroy a person's life.
The disease itself seems as though the sufferer has developed an aversion to food. Most anorexics simply do not eat, or eat minute portions of very specific foods. They also may exercise excessively, and use diuretics or laxatives to help maintain weight loss. The sufferer usually loses a great deal of weight that results in a gaunt or even unhealthy appearance, but most sufferers do not see themselves as too thin. Anorexics can literally starve themselves to death, and this is one reason the disease is so very dangerous - it can very literally destroy a person's life as it destroys their body. However, there are also many other reasons that anorexia can destroy a person's life emotionally and mentally.
Anorexia can affect the body in many ways. First, of course, it can kill, although many people believe that it is not as big a killer as some people estimate (Lucas 3-4). However, it also has many other affects on the body. Young women who drop below a certain body weight often stop menstruating. There are also many other dangerous physical side affects of self-starvation. Dr. Alexander R. Lucas continues, "Along with the weight loss, inadequate nourishment causes body processes to change: heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. What little food the person eats is retained in the stomach longer as the churning activity of digestion slows down" (Lucas 61). If anorexia continues, body processes can be permanently affected. This was true with 70s singer Karen Carpenter, who was extremely anorexic. The disease weakened her heart and she suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 33 in 1983. In addition, as the body continues to deteriorate, there can be trouble with blood sugar levels, hair loss, fatigue, and dry and brittle hair and skin (Lucas 61). In addition, if anorexia begins at an early enough age - during prepuberty or puberty, it can halt the development of the reproductive organs and these anorexics may not be able to every have children (Lucas 89).
Anorexia can have devastating mental and emotional affects on the sufferers, too. As the body literally "shuts down" to conserve any fuel it gets from food, many physical changes take place, but these can also affect mental and emotional processes. The blood slows down and so does blood pressure, which can lead to less blood and oxygen to the brain, which can lead to difficulty…