Anorexia nervosa, commonly known as anorexia, often presents with numerous adverse effects to the whole body of the person suffering from it. The skin becomes unusually sensitive to cold, and is dry, brittle and easily bruised, and shows growth of fine baby hair or lanugo. Other effects of anorexia include irregular heart beats, which can lead to heart failure; osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures; and amenorrhea, or absence of menstrual periods. There are also frequent incidence of electrolyte imbalance, anemia, constipation, bloating, and infections seen in these patients. Mental problems also often arise, such as mood changes, poor memory, inability to think straight, and irritability.
Individuals suffering from this condition often go to great lengths to hide the physical effects of anorexia. Many sufferers wear baggy pants and loose shirts to disguise their bony and sometimes skeletal appearance from others. At first, the effects of anorexia are a rapid loss of weight from diet restrictions and excessive exercises. As these activities continue, individuals with anorexia become more obsessed with weight loss to the point of starving themselves and using other means to lose more weight, such as taking diuretics and laxatives.
There are many signs and symptoms which can help family members recognize anorexia in their loved ones. These include obsessive watching of calorie counts, continued dieting even when already very thin, always thinking of food but never eating it, refusal to eat with the family, eating only very small portions, or just pretending to eat. Sufferers also often deny having eating problems and frequently complain of being fat despite their skin and bones appearance.
People suffering from the long-term effects of anorexia need immediate medical care and psychological rehabilitation. When the body becomes malnourished for a long time, numerous functions are usually affected, with some organs possibly having irreversible damage. The condition, however, is often treatable and patients have greater chance of recovery with the help of medical experts and the support of family members.
The factors that lead to the development of anorexia are still unknown. Some studies attribute it to inherited genes, to Western culture, and the environment an individual is exposed to, as well as an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. It is generally defined as an eating disorder as well as a mental disorder characterized by very low body weight, obsession with weight loss despite being already too thin, and extreme fear of weight gain.