How to Spot Anorexia
Anorexia is a growing illness that just doesn’t occur in teenagers, it happens at any stage in life. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘I wish I was as thin as… ‘ or wanting to look like someone else. It’s a serious mental illness that takes over a person’s life and controls their behaviour, and it is in some cases fatal. So, how do you spot the signs?
Watch the person’s behaviour when it comes to food. Usually they will eat only very small amounts and it’s usually nothing with carbohydrates. In some cases, they will make themselves vomit afterwards if they become anxious about the food being in their body. Another way of expelling food is laxative abuse. This type of purging leaves them feeling ‘clean’.
Secretly they will binge when no-one is around. Afterwards they make themselves vomit again expulsing the body and making it ‘clean’. This triggers another guilt trip and a stronger attitude towards not eating.
Think of it like this. The person decides that they will only consume say 500 calories a day. They still go about their daily lives and all that it entails. If they get through the day successfully they are satisfies. However, if they eat something that increases the calorie intake they feel that they have lost control. A series of behaviours will ensue as they feel that they have ‘failed’. We’re back to square one.
What to Do
It’s hard to express your concerns especially if it is a close family member. As well as that, they will probably lie and tell you that there’s nothing to worry about. All you can do is be there to support them and listen if they do want to talk about it. Don’t overreact – that will scare them into silence. Even if you hear some frightening and unpleasant things stay calm and listen. This is hard to do but the more you keep the lines of communication open, the more honest that person will be. For example, they may express thoughts of self-harming or suicide and most of us aren’t trained to react properly (if that’s at all possible!), so if you take the emotion out of it, they will probably be relieved as they have enough going on.
It’s only when a person hits rock bottom that they will do something and that’s why it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. There’s a possibility that if the person feels alone or isolated, they may commit suicide. However, if they know that they’re not alone, they may take the first step by asking for help, that they don’t want to live like this. That’s when you see a glimmer of hope. With their permission you may take them to the GP. Depending on how bad they are, they may be admitted to hospital to receive nutrition without re-feeding syndrome occurring. You see, if that happens they could die. It’s important that they receive a calorie-controlled regime and this triggers further emotional reactions. As they put on weight, they will begin other behaviours that could result in relapse when they leave hospital. While they’re in, they’re watched 24/7, even bathing and going to the loo. This lack of privacy is hard to deal with and they can become resentful. When they are allowed home, they may be filled with feelings of self-loathing. Body-checking, measuring and continually looking in the mirror may develop. It is vitally important that psychiatric help is put in place.
It’s Not Over Yet
As I said, these behaviours may occur and the person could react negatively and ‘run for the hills’ vowing to ‘stay under the radar’. So this could start all over again. All I’m saying is don’t get your hopes up. Even when the person is receiving psychiatric help and support from a dietician, it’s a slow rate of progress. As well as addressing the myriad issues surrounding recovery, one bout of a bug, can mean that they may have to go back into hospital as they live close to edge. It’s slow and difficult for weight gain – frustratingly! Good luck!