Being vigilant about eating habits, exercising, and living healthily is a normal part of life. Most people try to keep their weight within the appropriate scale for their height, build, and genetics. A few extra pounds are usually combated through a minor diet adjustment and some additional exercise. But when the concern over weight turns into an obsession, it could be detrimental to a person’s overall health.
Anorexia Has Highest Mortality Rate of All Psychiatric Illnesses
This is the case for thousands of Americans who suffer from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that develops based on irrational fears of weight gain. The disorder is sparked by excessive negative self-criticism regarding body shape and size, and affects about .05% to 3.7% of women at some point in their life. These patients are plagued by a ceaseless desire to maintain a thin frame, and will often restrict their diets, or starve to keep weight off their figure. They commonly feel overweight despite being underweight for their age.
Anorexia takes a toll on the physical body, often severely harming normal functioning. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, sufferers of anorexia nervosa show signs of:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unable to stand up on their own
- Dry skin and hair
- Notable muscle loss
- Heart damage
- Decrease in body temperature.
NIMH also reports anorexia is often a sign of a mental health illness. People who have this disorder often display signs of depression, substance abuse, or an anxiety disorder. Anorexia also fairly common during adolescence, but can develop as early as childhood. In fact, one study shows that elementary school girls, ages 6 to 12, are at risk for developing anorexia, as about 40% to 60% are concerned with becoming too fat.
The stakes are also much higher when considering the fact that this disorder can have a fatal outcome. One study shows that women between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age suffering from anorexia nervosa face a mortality rate 12 times higher than any other cause of death. In addition, 50 years of research verifies that of all psychiatric disorders, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate.
The causes of this illness are not completely certain, though researchers indicate that it could be combination of factors, including genetics and psychology, as well as behavioral and social components. This urges medical professionals to treat these patients with a multitude of methods, namely psychotherapy, medication, and nutritional counseling. One of the main focuses of psychiatric treatment is to change the patient’s self-perception to a more positive framework.
Teen treatment programs have proven effective for a large number of people who suffer from anorexia, and could be the key to altering the mortality rate of this illness. By helping to reduce a poor self-image, psychologists, doctors, and counselors can battle anorexia nervosa, and hopefully stop this disorder from reaching further into the minds of young adolescents.