There are more and more cases of anorexia across Europe, and adolescents affected by it are getting younger and younger. So who are the victims of this cult of thinness? How does this eating disorder manifest itself? Here's a closer look at those people for whom slimming is an obsession…
How does someone become anorexic?
Anorexia frequently occurs after a slimming regime, which would probably not be justified on medical grounds. The cult of excessive thinness leads young girls to be more preoccupied with their weight earlier on.
In all cases, the weight symptoms reflect a psychological problem, very often not picked up on by those around the person. The psychological problem can result from a lack in self-confidence and independence. And as as these emotional problems take hold, anorexia can start to manifest itself.
Anorexia most often occurs soon after puberty, during unsettling periods in the young person’s life. It constitutes a ‘compromise’ during which increased knowledge, sexual maturity and becoming an adult become psychologically unmanageable.
Anorexia and distorted perception
Anorexic individuals do not perceive their bodies as they really are; they invariably find themselves too fat and have a fear of gaining weight - of losing control of their body weight. Extreme thinness is defined by a body mass index (the relationship between size and weight) of less than 18.
With this BMI calculation, someone who is 1.65m tall will be underweight if they weigh 49kg or less. Anorexics lose at least 15% of their natural weight, and from a medical point of view, sufferers will have hormonal problems, and amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) in girls. Anorexic behaviour is often linked to physical and intellectual hyperactivity, over-studying or over-working, poor relationships and a depressive mood.
Anorexia as young as 8
Eating disorders are typically feminine, affecting one man for every 10 to 15 women and over the past decade, anorexia has become increasingly common. Previously diagnosed in middle class and upper class families, anorexia is now affecting all sectors of society. It’s hitting younger and younger ages, first appearing between 12 and 18 rather than 15 and 25. Doctors and clinical specialists in eating disorders are even seeing children as young as 8 or 9 with anorexia.
Some 0.5% to 1% of adolescents could be anorexic, but there are probably more than this; as many deny their abnormal weight or having at eating disorder at all. Sometimes, the only way that anorexia is ’discovered’ by loved ones is when the person starts suffering from anorexia associated health problems, which set in due to the long-term weight loss.