What is Anorexia?
Anorexia is a complex mental illness, but it is treatable, and with the right treatment recovery is possible.
There is no one way to have Anorexia, but there are common behavioural patterns and emotional and cognitive characteristics that help in diagnosing the illness.
Anorexia typically involves restrictive eating; where someone limits their food intake to a dangerous and often life-threatening degree. An irrational fear of gaining weight and distorted body image can feed into their restricted relationship to food as they attempt to maintain a low weight or strive to lose more. Excessive exercise and binge/purge cycles – often associated with Bulimia – may also factor in someone’s Anorexia as they attempt to compensate for any food that is eaten.
This preoccupation with food can lead to secrecy and self-conscious eating around other people; contributing towards social withdrawal and isolation as they attempt to hide or protect the eating disorder.
Despite how it may seem, Anorexia – like other eating disorders – is not about the food. Rather, there are complex emotional underlying causes that force an individual to look outside themselves to cope.
It’s important to remember that Anorexia often causes feelings of guilt and shame, which fuels the “critical voice” of the eating disorder and traps them further within their illness. Despite how avoidant someone may be about receiving help and support, it’s important that they don’t feel alone in their recovery journey.
There’s no “one way” to have Anorexia.
What is Anorexia Athletica?
Anorexia Athletica is a sub-type of the eating disorder, Anorexia. It references a compulsive obsession with exercise alongside symptoms related to restricting food intake and, often, maintaining a low weight with regimented eating.
The diagnosis was first used in the 1980s but has only recently come into common vernacular and is sometimes referred to as “compulsive exercise”, “hypergymnasia” or “sports anorexia”.
People with Anorexia Athletica have a tendency to focus on athletic performance and measure their self-worth against other people’s performance and body types. That being said, there are often complex emotional underlying causes that force an individual to look outside of themselves to cope.
What causes Anorexia?
Like other eating disorder diagnoses, there is no one single cause. Rather, a combination of social, genetic and psychological factors that can contribute.
Common behavioural and psychological symptoms of Anorexia
- Tightly regulated and restricted eating
- Preoccupation with exercise
- Food ‘rituals’ in preparation or eating
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Preoccupation with size and body image
- Low self-esteem and insecurity
- Perfectionism, often at the expense of relationships
- Depression and anxiety
Orri’s approach to treating Anorexia
Orri understands the complexities of eating disorders. We have spent our careers working alongside people living with eating disorders and their families so that recovery becomes possible for all.
To us, recovery involves healing the underlying cause of the eating disorder to ensure full and sustained recovery, as opposed to addressing the symptoms alone – which many other facilities tend to prioritise. We heal the underlying cause by providing individuals with the tools they need to recover – recognizing that everyone is different and therefore everyone’s experience of an eating disorder will be different.
Our particular area of focus is specialist day treatment through a stepped approach. By taking a stepped approach, we can provide the right level of support as individuals maintain their careers, go to school or university, and return to their lives alongside recovery. It’s this flexibility and emphasis on collaboration that makes our approach unique.
Recovery is more than just an absence of symptoms. It is a gradual process that won’t happen on any particular day but will deepen and strengthen with time. Our commitment is to the individual and their journey, as well as to the support system around them of family and carers.
Want to learn more about Anorexia? We’re here.
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