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Does Someone You Care About Have Anorexia?

Aug 17, 2007
Anorexia is an eating disorder that develops when someone stops eating enough food for adequate nutrition. It can happen slowly, over several months or even years, as when some people grow older or develop an underlying disease like cancer. As their appetite dwindles, they may stop eating altogether or gradually eat less and less. Without taking in enough calories or nutrients, a person can get sick or become weak. Any other health condition that develops during this time can then further compromise that person's health.

Another type of anorexia is based on personal self-image. People who are trying to lose weight sometimes take extreme measures by reducing the amount of food they eat and eating much less frequently. While it can be easy to lose several pounds each week in this way, such dramatic weight loss can lead to unhealthy consequences, including heart arrhythmias, weakness, dehydration, loss of concentration, and nutritional imbalances, among others. If left undiagnosed and untreated, some of these results can be fatal.

If you suspect someone you care about has anorexia, here are some of the possible symptoms that may indicate the presence of this situation.

1. The person may eat little or nothing for many meals. Watch to see how much food is placed on the person's plate, whether she eats it all, and if she has second helpings. If she picks at her food, spits some bites into her napkin, or leaves some on her plate, this could signal that she isn't getting much nutrition, especially if it happens frequently. She may sip water instead or poke at her food instead of taking regular bites, chewing, and swallowing.

2. The person may binge and purge. You might see the person stuffing her face with regular or high-calorie foods, and then disappearing into the bathroom soon after eating. Excessive eating followed by fasting, or binging following by prolonged bathroom visits may be signs that the person is not processing food correctly.

3. The person may use diet aids or medications to slow eating. If you have access to her medicine chest, or feel comfortable enough asking, you can find out if the person is taking diuretics to make her urinate more frequently and eliminate extra water for temporary weight loss. An anorexic also may be taking appetite suppressants that cause her to feel less hungry and to eat less. She also might have medication to cause frequent bowel movements, or even take enemas fairly often. This, however, may cause the intestines to become sluggish and stop working much on their own.

4. The person might show signs of moodiness, fatigue, or depression. These, however, also may represent other conditions as well, so urge the person to see the doctor if you're not sure anorexia is the cause.

If someone under your supervision shows symptoms like these, take her or him to the doctor. If the person is an independent adult, make yourself available as a confidante, and when opportunities arise, be ready to advise a medical examination.
About the Author
For more information on anorexia and bulimia, Visit Anorexia and Bulimia.com
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