Anorexia is so numbing. The struggle creates a hollow detachment from everything – feelings, relationships, even activities. Often the experience manifests in what may not appear as negative coping skills at first, because individuals who struggle, develop discreet ways to cope: body checking, calorie counting, scale hoping, fear of body mass increases, avoidance, and it all serve a purpose – to keep you safe. We often see this experience as quite a sophisticated way of coping. In a world that feels out of control the strongest often find ways to remain in control. Believe it or not, it is a safety mechanism that is biologically-based. It isn’t your fault and that is exactly where we start in the treatment. Once a person takes the burden of fault off their shoulders, a shift begins to appear. Think of how you would feel if you finally filled your life with access to more possibility.
Good bye rigidity, hello freedom from anxiety!
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which involves a preoccupation with restriction of food and thinness. It’s often about control and ways to identify the symptoms include feeling as though one can’t stop following certain rigid rules around meals, how they may treat and view their body, and even exercise. They may even have a goal of achieving a very specific weight which is at the forefront of their every move and the minute one loses momentum, a scramble takes place. Often one people can’t see, it can feel obsessive and seeking a plan to calm the nervous system. It can feel catastrophic and panic sets in. The dissatisfaction with your body controls your eating habits. Your eating habits control your mood, your mood is intolerable unless you haven’t eaten.
How Do You Recognize the Symptoms?
Many believe that a person struggling simply restricts food and looks too thin. This is old school ideas, circa 1980’s/1990’s. Although this may be true some of the time, we know this isn’t always the case. People at any weight can suffer from anorexia. Biologically triggered in the brain what typically happens is someone experiences a difficult situation or struggling in a difficult relationship, the body becomes flooded with anxiety and they struggle further with depression or anxiety, even trauma. It can also just be simple, like a constant flood of stress. Experiencing a loss can also trigger a need to control one’s feelings.
If someone is experiencing any symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment from a certified eating disorder specialist. Recovery is absolutely possible. The first step is to know the signs which include:
- Weight loss
- Thin appearance
- Abnormal blood counts
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Dizziness or fainting
- Brittle nails
- Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- Absence of menstruation (amenorrhea)
- Development of fine hair on the extremities (lanugo)
- Dry skin
- Intolerance of cold
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
- Osteoporosis, the loss of bone calcium, which may result in broken bones
Aside from these signs, control is one of the main identifiers of anorexia.
One tell tale sign for some is oddly being fixated on the need to be perfect, especially when it comes to body and weight. Thoughts about food, body, and exercise can dominate and challenge their life. Nothing is good enough. They may control food by avoiding social events or refusing meals. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to seek help. There are ways to prevent this disorder from getting worse.
Other common characteristics of someone with anorexia include:
Difficulties with communication.
Often food restriction is a metaphor for the ability to communicate. The more one restricts, the more communication is restricted too. Individuals may even have difficulty asserting themself and their needs. This can create confusion and misunderstanding in relationships, especially if one struggles with accessing emotions, which is also common in individuals with anorexia.
Commonly hides oneself.
This is how it often starts in the first place. There is an intense desire to hide and disappear.
If these symptoms and/or characteristics sound familiar, you may consider asking yourself, “What is my relationship with food?”
This may seem like a simple question, but when someone goes through such a difficult experience, often the relationship feels difficult. Food shouldn’t be causing such strife and by reaching out for treatment you learn to stabilize what is happening in a way that promotes courage and connection. These are very scary ideas for someone struggling with Anorexia Nervosa. Remember, the latin word for Nervosa is nervous. You can look beneath the surface of an eating disorder to understand the complexity of what may be going on. That’s what we do. We help you see the whole picture while also maintaining an equilibrium that helps you find balance. A certified eating disorder specialist can connect the dots between food restriction, exercise, isolation, perfectionism, emotional avoidance, relationships, school, and work.
We know how to help.
When a person is scared and doesn’t know what to do, healing is key. While some may feel ambivalent towards recovery, we understand that this isn’t easy. Honesty surrounding pain is one of the hardest things to do. When you own the experience, change happens in our offices. It’s incredible to see and our professionals are trained in the treatments that help anorexia along with common co-occurring challenges, such as anxiety, family issues, depression, codependency, school problems, bipolar disorder, self-harm, and other mood and behavioral problems.
Why should I seek an eating disorder specialist?
Treating eating disorders requires its own language and boundaries. One word about food can trigger a negative moment for someone with an eating disorder. There are medical standards that must be upheld to properly treat restriction. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Eating Disorders often cause people to have unwanted hospital stays and it’s our job to avoid that from happening. We do everything we can to stabilize an actively regressing situation and ‘safety net’ experiences. We want you to avoid as much pain as possible and sometimes we can’t always ‘safety net’ the situation. Those moments break our hearts. The sooner one comes in for support, the more accessible stabilization is. It is one of the most severe mental health disorders so it is important to have a specialist on your team. Treatment requires dedication, knowledge, and adherence to ethical standards established by the Academy for Eating Disorders to ensure you receive the care required for recovery. A specialist knows how to identify the connections between various disorders and how to treat them. Therapists who specialize in anxiety, depression, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may not know how to truly address the intensity of eating disorders.
Can you offer skills and insight?
Yes. We will help you to develop more awareness as to why your eating disorder began in the first place. Through this awareness and reflective process, you will gain the strength and renewal you deserve.
We have many articles throughout our website some highlighted below.
Radio & TV
- Good Day Philadelphia: The Stigma Surrounding Eating Disorders
- NPR: Accepting our Bodies; Positivity and Neutrality
- MLTV21: Men and Mental Health
- Spotting The Signs: Identifying Eating Disorders
- The Necessary Steps for Healing your Relationship with Food
- Breaking the SIlence: Men and Eating Disorders
- 5 Ways to Use Social Media to Inspire (Rather than Wound) Body Confidence
- 8 Ways to Cope with Body Image: What to do Right Now
- The Importance of Men’s Wellbeing: A Discussion
Print & Media:
- Philadephia Inquirer: What to Know about Eating Disorders
- Inverse.com: Why Intermittent Fasting Can Become a Dangerous Choice for Men
- Huffington Post: How to Survive the Holidays with an Eating Disorder