March 14, 2012

Anorexia Nervosa

I love food and hate exercise. I don’t have time to work out… I don’t want to be on the cover of Playboy or Vogue. I want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone or Q. I’m not a trend-setter… I’m a singer… I’d rather weigh a ton and make an amazing album then look like Nicole Richie and do a shit album. My aim in life is never to be skinny.”
-Adele Adkins

Realisticaly, woman should care about their bodies in terms of keeping themselves healthy but not starving themselves so that they can fit the “prefect-skinny” image created by media, which may or may not make them look more beautiful. Adele's interview with the Rolling Stones magazine in April 2011 might be one of the most influential quotes I have came across about the image created by media.

 For this, I interviewed Dr. Lama Mattar, who did her PhD in human nutrition in University Pierre Marie Curie to explain further this subject from the scientific point of view. Mattar, who is specialized in eating disorders, lists the types of eating disorders as anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS).
AN has a typical onset at adolescence but can be diagnosed in adulthood. The prevalence of AN in women aged between 11 and 65 is 0.5% to 2.2% and varies according to age, tools used and the diagnosis criteria. On the other hand, for every 10 AN cases, we observe one case among men.
Mattar simplified AN diagnosis under 5 major characteristics: body weight less than 85% of ideal weight or and BMI less than 17.5 in adults, amenorrhea for more than 3 consecutive months (the absence of menstrual period), the continuous fear of gaining weight, and the disturbed body image.
Mattar states that there are two types of AN: the binge/purging type (twice a week crises of binge and purge) and the restrictive type (not eating at all).
The reasons behind developing AN are still not clear, claims Mattar. The factors are plenty including genetics such as family history of depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Sexual abuse, parents divorce and other family issues play a great role in causing AN.
Mattar, utters that personality characteristics such as OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder), perfectionism and anxiety also predispose for AN. Mattar stresses the fact that AN is not just due to society images of skinny women, but mainly due to several environmental and psychological factors!
Social pressure is a valid reason but not the main one at all. Other reasons can be endocrinological, biological and hereditary.
“Scientists really don’t know whether AN is a manifestation of depression/anxiety or whether the anorexia nervosa that causes depression and anxiety!” Mattar says and adds that people with AN pass through two phases, social pressure and the deeper, more critical phase, the psychiatric disorder. The latter is a manifestation of fear of gaining weight which leads to this severely restricted diet.
AN might give the person a feeling of self control and relief upon losing weight; however, the body will be affected adversely. AN affects the brain and nerves due to absence of energy intake. The hair and nails get thin and brittles, the skin bruises easily and becomes yellowish. Heart palpitations, slow heart rate and low blood pressure are felt. Muscles weaken and joints swallow. Constipation and bloating are a constant state, accompanied by hormonal disruptions and severe loss of bone mass.
The therapy for anorexic people is multidisciplinary, necessitating first the presence of a psychiatric, and psychologist, followed by medical help by a general practitioner, gynecologist, pediatrician and a nutritionist.
At the end, it’s one’s own will, faith and confidence that will enable him to pursue a healthy life and follow a balanced diet that will prevent him from falling into an eating disorder.

This article was also published in OUTLOOK, AUB's official student newspaper .Volume 44, issue 16.

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