Can You Prevent Anorexia?

Source – National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 10 October 2021

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that may lead to death. Anorexics eat very limited amounts of calories, which leads to malnutrition. They will eventually become dangerously lean and malnourished, but occasionally still consider themselves to be overweight. Anorexics also become malnourished to the point of needing hospitalization. Even then, they deny that they have any problems.

Who’s at Risk for Anorexia?

Doctors don't know why people develop anorexia, although they do know what makes one individual more likely than another to develop it, such as:

  • Female gender – it also affects males but has a higher prevalence in young women;
  • Higher childhood body mass index;
  • Family history of an eating disorder;
  • Abnormal functioning of brain chemicals and circuits that control hunger and eating;
  • Social and cultural standards to be thin;
  • Underlying mental health condition – like depression, anxiety;
  • History of being teased because of weight or size;
  • History of sexual or physical abuse;
  • Personality and character traits like perfectionism or high-achievers;
  • Body image disorders – unhappy with body size
  • A lack of social or family support;
  • Having low self-esteem;
  • Highly stressful environment – for example at home, school, or work;
  • Unhealthy influences of social media;
  • History of dieting a lot;
  • Social problems in general, including withdrawal;
  • Premature birth, low birth weight, or being part of multiple births.

Can I Help Stop Anorexia?

You, your parents, relatives, and teachers should do a variety of things to help alleviate the stresses that can contribute to your loved one having anorexia, including the following:

  • Tell them that being extremely thin isn't a good thing;
  • Place a greater emphasis on their character than on their appearance;
  • Encourage them to express their emotions freely;
  • Boost their self-confidence;
  • Teach them about dieting's dangers;
  • Tell them you don't expect them to be perfect and there is no such thing as perfection.

Detecting Anorexia Early

Anorexia warning signs include excessive weight loss, excessive concerns about being overweight, avoiding regular meals, and excessive exercise. Here are few things you can do to prevent things from getting worse:

  • Get educated. Begin by learning about anorexia, especially the misconceptions and facts that exist;
  • Talk to them. Talk to them about your concerns. Often, don't hesitate until their symptoms are serious to help. The earlier you bring things up, the sooner they can get assistance;
  • Seek medical help. Encourage them to seek medical help from a doctor or a psychiatrist. They can prevent their anorexia from worsening;
  • Show them support. Tell them that you love them. People who suffer from anorexia have a difficult time trusting others. Make an effort to demonstrate that you are trustworthy;
  • Praise and compliment them. Remind them that real beauty comes from inside by telling them how beautiful they are. It's encouraging to know that everyone feels they're fantastic just the way they are;
  • Build a support network. Share the concerns for those who are concerned. Having help is the only thing you would do for all of you;
  • Be their role model. Eat and exercise in a healthy manner. They like to know you have good habits. They may be motivated to follow your lead.

Sources

Referenced on 2.3.2021:

  1. American Psychiatric Association: “Expert Q&A: Eating Disorders.”
  2. National Eating Disorders Association.
    NEDIC: “Prevention of Eating Disorders.”
  3. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa/prevent-anorexia-nervosa#:~:text=If%20you%20know%20someone%20with,stop%20someone%20from%20getting%20it.

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