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Anorexia nervosa, often referred to as anorexia, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic mental health illness under the Disorder Class: Feeding and Eating Disorders.

According to the Mayo Clinic, anorexia is “characterized by an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight.” Though anorexia can manifest at any age, research suggests it most commonly develops during adolescence. Young people diagnosed with anorexia engage in a cycle of self-starvation that often results in malnutrition including a lack of essential minerals and nutrients. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. There are myriad adverse short and long-term effects of anorexia, and without proper treatment, anorexia can lead to life-threatening consequences.

Risk Factors

Although anorexia most frequently begins during one’s adolescence, it can affect people of all ages. There are specific risk factors that can increase one’s chance of developing anorexia, including the following examples, provided by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA):

  • Dieting and starvation: habitual dieting to the point of starvation can increase a teen’s potential for developing anorexia. Studies have shown that starvation impacts one’s brain functioning and one’s ability to make rational decisions. In turn, restrictive eating behaviors are perpetuated, and returning to healthy/ normal eating habits becomes increasingly difficult.
  • Genetics: Individuals with familial history of anorexia and/ or other eating disorders put certain people at higher risk of developing anorexia.
  • Transitions: emotional stress resulting from various life transitions (e.g., new school, move, death of a loved one, etc.) can increase the risk of anorexia.
  • Peer influence: teens going through puberty and adolescence face hormonal changes, increased peer pressure, and often internalize criticisms about appearance, which can put teenagers at a higher risk for anorexia. 

Signs and Symptoms

Teens struggling with anorexia may exhibit behavioral warning signs such as skipping meals, over-exercising, obsessively reading nutritional information, constantly weighing themselves, regularly making excuses not to eat, denial of a problem despite excessive weight loss, etc. Common symptoms that can manifest as a result of anorexia could include the following examples, provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Thin appearance
  • Insomnia
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Not making expected developmental weight gains
  • Dizziness and/ or fainting
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Fatigue
  • Thinning, brittle hair
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Dry and/ or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Excessively exercising

Every young person is different and could present with any combination of the above examples when struggling with anorexia. When a teen with anorexia becomes severely malnourished, every organ in his or her body can suffer irreparable damage. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at sean@upwelladvisors.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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