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Anorexia Nervosa: The Fear of Gaining Weight (Mental Health Research Team Report)

Anorexia nervosa, more commonly known as Anorexia, is a type of eating disorder that is

influenced by some mental factors an individual may have. The most common factors would

have to be an individual's fear of gaining weight. This specific type of eating disorder causes a person to lose an extreme amount of weight intentionally. This loss of weight occurs due to

self-intent vomiting, using things like laxatives, diet aids, diuretics and enemas incorrectly or by even forcing oneself to exercise extremely. These “methods’' of losing weight happen to be one of the main reasons why women who are diagnosed with anorexia between the ages of 15 to 24 have a death rate that is about 12 times higher than all of the other causes of death. The term “Body Image” also plays a major role when it comes to influencing or developing an eating disorder such as anorexia.

Body Image and its Influence on Society

Now that we’ve learned most of the basic knowledge about anorexia, it’s time to link all of this information with more of the mental health side of it. The term “Body Image” is commonly spoken of around society especially since now, people are trying to stop body shaming and be inclusive with all body types. Well, for starters what exactly is “Body Image”? Essentially, an individual may have either positive or negative thoughts about their own body. Body image is sometimes also seen as a set of expectations that an individual should reach in terms of their physical appearance. A body image however, doesn’t just start with an individual's own thoughts out of the blue, it's usually due to the environment, the influences that are surrounding that individual. Some examples would be their parents, peers and even just the community as a whole. For instance, a sports coach may want your body to be more muscular in order for you to play a particular sport better. Normally when it comes to anorexia, an individual will have a lot of negative thoughts about their bodies even when they’re perfectly healthy. Not being able to meet certain standards for one's physical appearance is essentially one of the main factors that develops anorexia.

A Scientific Approach to Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa strongly affects your digestive system and digestive organs. Here are some examples of what anorexia may result in. Gastroesophageal reflux which is a disorder which is more commonly known as gastric reflux. This is basically when an individual forces themselves to vomit, (self-intent vomiting). Gastric reflux can lead to other issues in the human body such as sialadenosis which is the result of self-intent vomiting affecting the parotid glands and causes them to become swollen. Barrett’s esophagus is another digestive side effect that is a stage that normally comes before esophageal cancer. This is due to the erosion of food in the esophagus when the esophageal sphincter weakens, food is able to work its way back up to the esophagus resulting in food erosions. There are other medical issues that anorexia might lead to which includes; mallory weiss tears, Cathartic colon, Rectal prolapse, Delayed gastric emptying and Esophageal and gastric rupture.

Anorexia and the Human Brain

Besides the digestive organs, anorexia can also affect the brain and how it functions. There have been several scientific theories in terms of the human brain and how it is connected to anorexia. Although these theories have yet to be confirmed to be 100% true, the hypotheses formed are reasonable but overall interesting to learn about. Essentially, neurons, which are the cells that send messages to different parts of the nervous system. Neurons use neurotransmitters in order to transmit the electrical signals to other neurons

located in the brain. In terms of anorexia, there are two main types of neurotransmitters that are affected. The first one would be serotonin. Serotonin is incharge of sending messages that correlates to mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and even sexual desire. There has been research that has proved individuals who are currently suffering from anorexia nervosa have less amounts of serotonin in their cerebrospinal fluid compared to those that do not have the disorder. Additionally, those who have recovered from anorexia, gained more sufficient amounts of serotonin. This has been thought to be caused by starvation since serotonin relates to one's digestive system and most of it is found in the intestines. The second neurotransmitter is dopamine which is the pleasure or feel good hormone which is a part of our rewarding system. There is a theory that for people with anorexia, there is too much dopamine that is released in the body which results with the ability to disregard things that individuals may find pleasurable, for instance food. It also forms anxiety and hyperactivity.




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