It is very inaccurate to call it the 'slimmer's disease'. It takes no account of what's behind such an extreme response; negative feelings, such as low self-worth, extreme fear of rejection and a distorted self-image.
There are a number of signs that someone with anorexia may show:
- - losing a great deal of weight
- - denying they feel hungry
- - taking drastic measures to avoid putting on weight, such as: avoiding foods high in calories; making themselves sick; exercising excessively; using drugs that quell the appetite or speed up digestion; counting calories meticulously, and wearing baggy clothing to cover up any weight loss, or to keep warm
- weighing much less than they should (at least 15 per cent less than the expected weight for their age and height)
- - believing that they look fat, although they are considered underweight
- - being physically underdeveloped (this may happen if the problem occurs before puberty)
- - missing three, or more, menstrual periods in a row (although this may not occur if they are taking a contraceptive pill)
- - hiding food, or throwing it away
People can get a 'high' from denying themselves food or exercising too much. But, as they eat less and less, they will feel weaker, perhaps depressed and more and more tired.
Anorexia can affect every aspect of life; thinking, concentration and the ability to move around. It may be life threatening.
One possibile cause is a deficiency of zinc in the diet. Individuals suffering from the condition may recover when given 15mg zinc daily - this may be linked to starvation increasing urinary zinc secretion. Many anorexics complain of loss of sense of taste and smell which are common symptoms of zinc deficiency.