Anorexia Nervosa — A deadly eating disorder

Anshita Banthia
7 min readDec 20, 2022

A girl in her mid-teens, named Emma, was admitted to the General Teaching Hospital one night. No, she hadn’t met with an injury or an accident, but she was admitted because of her extreme weight loss. The matter is not as trivial as it seems. You would be flabbergasted to know that this is a serious disease, referred to as anorexia nervosa, and is ghastly enough, to even kill you.

According to a survey conducted among the people of the UK by Mentalhealth.org.uk in 2019, 20% of adults feel ashamed of their bodies, 35% of them constantly feel low or depressed, and 19% of the adults feel disgusted looking at their bodies. This ratio is even wider in the teens, about 68% of whom feel upset and disappointed with their bodies. People with sorrow for their bodies and dealing with body image issues have not remained far-fetched today.

But the narrative doesn’t end here. Because these people are at a high risk of developing anorexia, and as many as 13% of adults become suicidal as a result, we should pause for a moment to consider: do these eyes, nose, face, and hands that we inherited from our parents look so hideous to us that we don't want to touch or look at ourselves, and that we are running away from a god's gift, only to find ending our lives as the haven? What makes us so blind towards the blessing that at least we have these body parts, at least they are healthy and functional! Here we are cribbing about the way our body looks, and sitting in an ostracized corner are those who are deprived of hands, legs, or eyes to see the world. If they are given the opportunity to see your features, they will be unable to resist admiring their beauty, because they are beautiful—to them and to everyone else who sees us.

When Emma was taken to the hospital, her weight was 35 kg and her height was 155 cm. This equals her BMI of 14.6 kg per meter squared. BMI means Basal Metabolic Rate, which is widely used as an indicator of whether a person has a healthy body weight for their height. It is calculated by dividing weight (in kg) by the square of height (in meters). A person is classified as being underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on the value received from the BMI calculation. A healthy BMI ranges from 17–23, and since Emma’s BMI was just 14, she was clearly underweight.

Anorexia literally translates as “lack of appetite.” This statement is misleading, though, because those who have anorexia nervosa frequently feel hungry but still refuse to eat. They see their food as their enemy. Anorexia nervosa’s symptoms include hair falling out in clumps, bloating in the stomach, dry skin, blue lips, compulsive exercising, social withdrawal, feeling depressed, etc., and all of these were experienced by her. This is not a rare case. People skip breakfast and dinner; some eat only one meal a day, while others do not eat at all. Some people shove their fingers deep inside their throats in order to throw up after their meals and not get any calories.

Who all are prone to develop Anorexia?

Although anorexia is a psychological disease, it can also be genetically transmitted from parents to children, like any other disease like thyroid, diabetes, or migraine. Studies have found out that if someone in the family has had any eating disorder or body image issues in past, the children are also likely to genetically be affected with signs and symptoms of the disease. Besides, it can also be contracted without having any family history of such disorders, when people entangle themselves in the social norms of having the perfect kind of body. Women between the ages of 12 and 35 are twice as likely as men to experience eating disorders because women are expected to look beautiful and have attractive bodies. Men too are prone to getting Anorexic, but not as likely as women. History is testimony to the plight of women who were made to wear tight corsets just to shrink their waists. Not only has their gambit made their waists slimmer, but it has also made the women vulnerable.

Today, everyone has become conscious of their appearance. Actors, models, dancers, and athletes who compete in weight-conscious sports like boxing, wrestling, or gymnastics are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. The condition may also develop in any person going through feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, or rage as a result of dealing with body image issues, which we read about in the beginning.

A 25-year-old married woman who had only completed class 10 was recently transferred to a care center in Bangalore. Tests showed that she had been gradually losing weight for two years, vomiting frequently, having irregular menstrual cycles for a year, and having an abnormal absence of menstruation for six months. A number of studies were carried out for the risk of tuberculosis, anemia, and abdominal tumors when she was seen by a physician. Her hemoglobin had dropped to 8 g/dl, where ideally it should be 12. She was also at risk of never being able to conceive. She was examined by a psychiatrist and it was found out that her husband would frequently make comparisons between her and magazine and television models who appeared to be skinny. After a while, she started to have a mental phobia of getting fat and ugly, and not being accepted or liked by her husband. Further examination showed that she consumed fennel seeds to upsurge her digestion. She reduced about 30 kilos of weight by doing so. She had a BMI of 15.6 and a height of 5.4 ft. Just falling prey to her husband’s one nasty comment, she had done this to herself.

Children today set an unrealistic ideal body image in their heads, looking at models on social media, and fail to understand that their constantly 0 figured bodies are by virtue of the lights and tech-savvy cameras.

Emma and this married woman, in spite of being underweight, felt the need to diet and fast because their minds were no longer in their control. In anorexia, what happens is that people look at themselves in the mirror and perceive themselves as fat, even if they are skinny in reality. Their eyes delude them into thinking that they are not thin enough, which thus forces them to starve. They get obsessed with losing weight and having skinny bodies, to an extent that they lose control over their minds and actions, not being able to focus on anything else. Not only this, but by being malnourished, people deprive their bodies of nutrients and grow old with low bone density, low hemoglobin, and several other deficiencies.

We all must have seen people being mocked and bullied by their classmates, in schools and colleges. Even Priyanka Chopra has spoken out about being bullied in high school because of her skin color. If only those kids could see the impact they leave on others’ minds, people would not have to depend on psychologists and dieticians for their recovery.

Having body image issues, we perceive ourselves in just one fixed way which creates a pattern in our thinking and it gets repeated continuously in our minds. We need to be gentle and get the patients suffering from it, to talk to a therapist who can understand them and change their thinking patterns, get them out of their perception loop, and can show them a new perspective of looking at themselves.

If at least all of us who are reading this article, make sure that we would never utter anything humiliating that makes anyone conscious and embarrassed, half of the problem would be resolved from the root itself. It is not difficult to rule out these body image issues. Increasing individual awareness of actions that we may take to better ourselves and others, is all that’s needed. Consider speaking with a friend, a responsible adult, or a health professional if your body image is a substantial source of stress for you or if you are experiencing bullying because of the way your body looks. Social media businesses should also be held accountable and should look into innovative methods to use their platforms to promote positive body image and make sure that a variety of body types are positively represented to their users. They should take action against anonymous trolls whose only pastime is to look at people’s bodies and judge them. Also, guys, don’t indulge too much on social media sites, and be mindful of the fact that everything portrayed there is not real. Find the best way that works for you to stay active and eat healthily. It’s that simple!

Emma was a happy, healthy, good-looking girl, a national swimmer competing all over Australia. If only her brother had not made fun of her, she would not have had to quit swimming and suffer through her restrictions for months.

Guys, life is too short to weigh your cornflakes. The fashion and movie industries have glorified the notion of zero-figured bodies so much that young children and teenagers feel inadequate about themselves while looking up to them as their role models. It’s time that we normalize being real and having petite and not-so-slim actresses and models, start loving our bodies, and basically stop killing ourselves because the only person whose acceptance you need is you. Even if your arms are a little swollen and your face appears chubby and round, that is what defines you!

Lastly, if you require support while dealing with an eating disorder, immediately call 1–800–931–2237 someone who can help and care about you. Also, share this with your friends and family members, to remind them that they are perfect just the way they are.

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Anshita Banthia

A computer science grad, who loves to write about the deeper and underlying aspects of life. I want to incite conversations through my content.