Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Friday, January 14, 2011

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is often the first eating disorder that comes to mind. No doubt, you know or knew someone whom you suspected suffered from this disease or whom seem dangerously thin. Anorexia is a disorder of self-starvation, either by calorie restriction or excessive exercise, where the individual has a distorted body image. As mentioned before eating disorders are psychological disorders, where the individual believes that they are fat or is afraid of becoming fat, no matter how thin they appear or how low the number on the scale is.

A person with anorexia exhibits the criteria (taken from the DSM-IV):
  • Refusal to maintain body weight at or above minimal normal weight for their age and height
  • Intense fear of being fat or gaining weight
  • A distorted body image
  • In females, the loss of three consecutive menstrual cycles (amenorrhea)

What happens to you physically if you suffer from anorexia?

  • Metabolic rate slows
  • Loss of lean tissue hurts physical performance
  • Increased risk of stress fractures (overuse injury)
  • Dehydration
  • The heart pumps inefficiently and becomes weak and thin
  • Blood pressure falls
  • The brain’s activity becomes abnormal
  • Insomnia is common
  • The digestive tract fails to digest food as needed
  • Inadequate immune response
  • Anemia
  • Dry skin
  • Low body temperature
  • High level of fatigue

What happens psychologically?

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Avoidance of eating and meals
  • Claims of being fat
  • Unusual weighing behavior
  • Excessive training beyond what is need for the sport
  • Obsession about body image
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression

How is it treated?

The type and amount of treatment needed depends on the severity of the disease. Some clients have to be fed with feeding tubes, while others are responsive to feeding themselves. Obvious treatment addresses the diet and works to stop weight loss and then begin weight gain. There is also a need to work through the psychological and social issues the individual has towards food. They also have to work on the patient’s relationships with themselves and their body.

The affects of anorexia will cause diminished athletic performance as well as life threatening complications. Most often, people with anorexia do not believe they have a problem. As a coach, trainer, teammate and friend, you need to watch out for some of the above changes and encourage someone who needs help to get it. Below are some resources related to eating disorders.

Academy for Eating Disorders
National Eating Disorders Foundation

NIMH Eating Disorders
Eating Disorders and Athletes

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