People with anorexia have a distorted view of their body. Although they eat so little that they become ill or malnourished at some point, people with anorexia still find themselves too fat. Preventing anorexia can be an ongoing process for someone at risk of developing this eating disorder. People who run this risk may have a close relative such as a mother or a brother or sister with the same disorder. It is also common in people with perfectionist tendencies. Gaining a healthier perspective on your body and a healthier relationship with food can help you prevent this condition.
What can you do yourself if you think you have anorexia?
People with anorexia nervosa often ask for help late. That is because they themselves think they are not sick. But: the sooner you seek help, the greater the chance that you will recover.
So make an appointment with your doctor. Discuss the following things with your doctor:
- how often and how much you eat;
- whether you have binge eating and then vomit or not;
- how you feel about your body;
- whether you have arrived or lost weight;
- whether you have physical complaints;
- how you think about yourself;
- how you feel (for example, are you tired or gloomy?);
- whether and which medicines you use (including laxatives);
- when and how much you exercise or exercise.
Also try to talk about it with people you know well, such as family or friends, or someone from your school or work. Realize that you are not alone and that people want to support you.
Also realize that you are not the only one. Problems with food are common. It can be very relieving to talk to other people who have or have had anorexia. They understand what you are going through and what you are feeling.
How is anorexia diagnosed?
If the doctor suspects you have anorexia, he will examine you. He asks you questions and does a physical examination. He also looks at your height, weight, blood pressure and heart rate. He will probably also check your blood and urine. It may also be that he wants to make a heart video. With all this information, he can determine whether you have anorexia.
If the doctor determines that you have anorexia, you may still think that there is nothing wrong. This is normal’. Because of the disease, you often do not see your own problem.
The doctor will refer you to a paediatrician and/or a specialized centre, for example, a mental healthcare institution. They may be conducting further research there.
Treatment of anorexia
Which treatment you receive depends on the severity of your symptoms. The treatment consists of different parts.
First, it is important that your body recovers and that you eat normally again. It is also important that you unlearn certain behaviour. For example, vomiting or extreme exercise.
It is very important to treat your psychological problems. This way you reduce the chance that the anorexia will return. Together with your practitioner, you investigate why you have anorexia. Do you think negatively about yourself? Can you handle tensions badly? Do you have a lot of grief? These can all be causes of your eating disorder. The practitioners pay attention to uncertainty, perfectionism and problems at home, and to the urge to always have control. You can talk about the things that bother you.
Various psychological treatments are possible. If you are younger than 18 or still living at home, your parents will be involved in the treatment.
For example, if you are a little older, you may receive cognitive behavioural therapy. With this therapy, you and your psychologist look at your ideas and expectations about your eating behaviour, yourself as a person and your body. Do they help you? Do they match reality? You learn to think differently, which makes you feel better.
Other treatments are also possible. For instance:
- Guidance in a group of fellow sufferers.
- Supervision by a dietician.
- Professional therapy, for example, dance therapy or psychomotor therapy. Psychomotor therapy is about how you experience your body and how you move.
- Some people with anorexia also receive medication. For example, because they are very scared to eat or feel sad. Or because they have a shortage of vitamins or minerals.
You may need to be hospitalized. This happens if, for example, you weigh too little and/or certain organs, such as your heart, intestines or kidneys, no longer work properly.
It is very important to think along during the treatment. Together with your practitioner (and possibly your parents) you are responsible for your treatment. Together you decide which treatments are best for you. This will be included in a treatment plan. This contains your goals and how you want to achieve them during your treatment.
Because you do it together, a good click with your practitioner is very important. You must feel comfortable and safe, trust your practitioner and feel that he/she understands you. Is this not the case? Then discuss that. It is quite normal to switch therapists when there is no click.
Thinking along yourself helps with your recovery. It also helps to take good care of yourself during treatment. For example, think of adequate sleep, a healthier heart and circulatory system, regularity in the day and alternation of rest and activity. Also, spend time on things that you like and give you energy.