The Real Deal About Anorexia

Anorexia is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

In most cases, the fear of weight gain or being “fat” is so intense that the individual consciously restricts in order to achieve a lower weight.  But for such individuals, the number is never low enough.  A hallmark of the disorder is that they grossly distort the shape of their bodies in their own minds, believing that they are “fat” even when they are deathly thin. This condition is known as body dysmorphia and is a common symptom of Anorexia. 

In terms of personality, the anorexic tends to be a perfectionist, judging themselves harshly. Though less common, they may also judge others harshly as well.

In a small proportion of cases, the individual is not resisting weight gain, nor consciously trying to lose weight. Instead, s/he is simply unable to eat enough to maintain a normal weight as a result of excessive anxiety. The eating disorder for this relatively small group develops partly as a result of a defense mechanism called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) which drives them to restrict more and more in order to control the number of calories they are ingesting. In other words eating less and less or taking in fewer and fewer calories becomes an obsession.  

Unlike the majority of Anorexics, whose goal it is to loose weight, this individual’s goal is to control calorie intake. Obviously, the outcome is the same, but it is important to understand the difference in order to be effective when treating such individuals.  The risk is that they may feel judged and or misunderstood otherwise.

Treating individuals suffering from anorexia is likely one of the most difficult conditions to treat for the simple reason that the patient and the therapist are on completely different sides. The therapist wants the patient to recover, a part of which is regaining the weight that s/he has lost. On the other hand the last thing the patient wants, is to gain weight or give up his or her need for control.

There is an intricate dance that follows in a good therapeutic relationship.  Over time, and especially if the therapist advocates for clean food, the patient learns to trust food again, because clean food behaves in the body. It doesn’t bloat or cause  food babies, it doesn’t attack the brain, it does not make you fat. It simply nourishes the body.   If the patient does not feel judged or forced and is not required to give up all control over the eating process, s/he is free to choose wellness.

Warning Signs of Anorexia

*Dramatic or persistent steady weight loss.
*Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and/or dieting.
*Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to severe food restrictions.
*Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
*Denial of hunger.
*Development of food rituals.
*Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
*Excessive, rigid exercise regimen-despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury.
*Withdrawal from friends and activities.
*Life revolves around weight loss, dieting, and control of food.

Does someone you love suffer from an eating disorder?

Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. We are located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.

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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances.  Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider.  You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.

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