Health

Understanding And Recognising Anorexia Nervosa

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By Ciara Ferguson

We have all heard of anorexia and although the word means loss of appetite, this isn’t the case at all. Appetite is supressed rather than lost.

A person who has anorexia does not allow themselves to eat food and therefore cannot maintain a healthy body weight, as a result, both the body and mind are starved of nutrients.

Niamh Ní Chonaill (19), moved from a small area in Connemara to Belgium at a young age. She describes it as a “stressful experience” for her and her older sister, which made her feel “down and anxious”.

When she turned 11, all of this was heightened.

“I always thought the other European girls had great slim bodies so I started dieting,” she sad.

“What started out as an innocent diet ended up a complete vicious addictive cycle of cutting out more and more food. I hid food, I avoided it at all costs until it came to the point that I feared it.”

At one point, Niamh admits to eating only one slice of toast a day and drinking only a little bit of water. It was then that they returned home and she was hospitalised.

Once she admitted she had a problem, things became easier.

“The harder I fought, every meal I ate, every negative thought I changed to positive helped with who I am today.”

Although she no longer has issues with food, she still suffers with anxiety and depression but is hoping that one day she’ll look back and fondly tell her success story of that battle too.

Symptoms of anorexia include: an intense fear of putting on weight (this fear is not lessened by any amount of weight loss), low self-esteem, perception of body shape and size are disturbed, social isolation, unable to sleep but constantly tired, frequent weighing, excessive thinking and talking about food and related issues and lying about food intake, claiming to have already eaten or to have plans to eat elsewhere.

The time needed for recovery varies according to each individual.

The aim is to have the individual speak with several people: a mental health professional, a medical professional and a registered dietitian to work towards a healthy weight and healthy eating habits.

I know it may seem impossible now if you are suffering from anorexia, but if you accept that you have a problem, like Niamh did, you will find you can beat this with the help of others.

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