This month Heartlands Hospital’s Dr Dyer advises on Anorexia
ANOREXIA is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.
It is an extreme form of controlling and limiting what you eat. Anorexia usually begins in the mid-teens leading through to young adults and although it is more common in women, it also affects 1 in 2000 men. For someone to be classed as anorexic their weight has to be 15 per cent below the average for their age, height and sex.
The number of girls in the West Midlands treated in hospital for the condition has doubled over the last 5 years.
Some are surprised to hear that Asian men and women are prone to eating disorders, as for Asian women, who were once admired for their full figures and round faces, have now been absorbed into the western notions that being stick thin makes you more beautiful, and increasingly more Asians are being treated for eating disorders such as anorexia.
People who are anorexic often find it hard to recognise their condition, but the main signs to look out for is an obsession with food, deliberate weight loss, either through under eating, being sick after meals or over exercising; strict dieting; missing meals; hiding food and avoiding eating with others. People with anorexia might become distant from family and friends; this is stemmed from having little confidence and a low self esteem.
Usually those who become anorexic think they are fat or have a fear of becoming fat, even if they are already thin or underweight. The health problems that run along side anorexia can be more serious than just mal-nutrition. These problems can lead to poor circulation, the heartbeat becoming slow and irregular, low blood pressure, having a pain in the abdomen or a constant feeling of being cold or having a low body temperature. Also, in the young it can affect growth and particularly in girls, their periods can become irregular or stop completely.
You don’t often hear reports of men having anorexia, but it’s known that 10 per cent of all cases of eating disorders are in males. Usually their reasons for the obsession with weight differ to women, for example it can be related to a career choice, such as being an athlete or body builder, or it may come from stress and anxiety, or is job or money related.
If you are diagnosed with anorexia, your GP will probably be involved in your ongoing treatment and care. Other healthcare professionals may also be involved in your treatment, such as a counsellor, nutritionist or psychiatrist.
If you are worried, please contact your local GP or NHS Direct