1.55% of the population in Austria have Anorexia Nervosa, with France close behind at 1.42%. Around 1 out of 54 people in the United States have some sort of an eating disorder, with Anorexia Nervosa being in the lead. What makes it even more alarming is that research also suggests that this data contains many unaccounted people with Anorexia Nervosa due to misdiagnosis. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of every mental illness and Anorexia Nervosa wins the death count trophy by a leap. A major concern is people’s ignorance on this deadly, yet common, disorder. The media continues to show hazardously skinny models, actors, dancers and musicians, even though the media recognizes the damage to people’s subconscious and self appreciation. Society is extremely under-educated on this topic, and if more people are aware of what it is, what it feels like, how it occurs, and how to recover, perhaps the percentage of people with this illness will decline.
First off, people need to know what it is. The name Anorexia Nervosa is of Greek origin. “An-” is a prefix indicating negation, and “-orexia” (derived from -orexis) means appetite. Therefore, the literal translation of anorexia is “loss of appetite”. This name, though misleading, is similar to how people should react to someone that has it. This does not mean people should shrug it off. This means people should understand and accept it is not the anorexic’s fault and the anorexics cannot help but feel this way. Some people are born at higher risk to develop an eating disorder due to an under active endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is better known as the marijuana-like neurotransmitter. It is in charge of controlling the amount of pleasure from sensory experiences. People with a healthy endocannabinoid system would feel some euphoria after grabbing a bite. This is why people typically become satisfied after eating, and tend to snack a lot when feeling negative emotions. With this neurotransmitter being under active, anorexics do not feel this rush of euphoria. The individual may find food frightening or trigger anxiety, leading the individual to avoid food entirely. Due to this unfortunate and unpreventable biological factor, it becomes difficult to prevent this disorder. Some people tend to treat anorexics poorly due to the fact that they are unaware of this, and these people need to realize telling an anorexic to eat will not help. In fact, telling an anorexic to “just eat” causes frustration and makes anorexics feel as if no one understands them. It could also make anorexics feel worthless and idiotic because they struggle so much to do a simple everyday activity. Instead, people attempting to help anorexics should offer a listening ear and become someone whom anorexics can trust. Anorexia is not choice, but a mental disorder. It is not a lifestyle, and should never be viewed as one. It is a cry for help and someone with greater authority that has the ability to help must be notified of the deadly issue. Anorexics do become worried about how skinny they appear, however body image is not usually the trigger.
When people were asked what they think the triggers of Anorexia Nervosa are, most respond claiming the media, family influence, peer influence and/or self hate, however the majority did not think about the other common causes like stress and abuse. Stress can influence anorexia in two ways: start of overeating or strive for control. It often leads to people eating more comfort foods. Unluckily, when the body is under a great amount of stress, fat cell formation is higher. Since this makes the individual accumulate fat content quickly, the individual may start to despise food, realizing what it has done to his/her body. Strive for control is formed by sudden changes like loss of a loved one or losing a job. These two are both common examples of stress induced by something that cannot be changed. The individual tries to take control of something and eating is of easy access. Unfortunately, developing anorexia would leave the individual with less control and give in to the obsession of counting calories, over exercising and maintaining a low weight. Physical abuse also causes the feeling of no control. The victim is hurt and tends to feel alone with no one to help him/her. Verbal and sexual abuse does trigger self hate which by a domino effect, triggers anorexia. Verbal abuse is particularly damaging when it comes from a parent or partner. The victim, in this situation, feels the need to be better so the abuser will be more accepting of the victim. This is why comments on weight should be avoided. Sexual abuse also tends to create self hate towards his/her own body. Sometimes females wish to have a child like figure and use food restriction as a way to achieve this dangerous goal. They believe having an immature body would reduce the chance of being targeted again.
This is just a rough outlook on anorexia. If an individual is placed in a position where he/she must take action, further research should be performed. This is to raise awareness and diminish people’s ignorance. The world might seem gloomier now, but this is the truth of what others go through. This is why bullying is intolerable. Every being on the planet is linked together and the things people say can either break down society or strengthen it. Always keep in mind that Anorexia Nervosa is not a lifestyle that anyone can control, Anorexia Nervosa causes great suffering, triggers are not as simple as they may seem, and recovery is a long process which everyone needs to take part in. Spread the word and diminish ignorance. Then possibly, anorexia rates will decline.
Reference to: my interviews with people who have Anorexia Nervosa and sitting in on counselling