Anorexia can develop at any age, from 5 to 60, although it most
commonly develops among teenagers and the occurrence of 8-11 year
olds developing the disorder is increasing. Anorexia may be limited
to one episode accompanied by large weight loss within a few months
followed by recovery, or it may begin gradually and persist for
years. The illness may swing between improving and getting worse,
or it may just become steadily more severe.
anorectic's pre-occupation with food is usually accompanied by
habits such as moving food about the plate, cutting it into tiny
pieces to prolong eating and not eating with the family. Excessive
exercise is also another common symptom.
weight-obsessed anorectics, normal fold of flesh are regarded
as "fat" which must be eliminated, fuelled by a compulsive fear
of becoming fat. After the normal fat padding is lost, sitting
or lying down brings discomfort and not rest, making sleep difficult.
As the disorder progresses, victims may withdraw from loved ones
and become increasingly isolated.
with starvation, the body slows down or stops various processes.
Blood pressure and body temperature falls, breathing rate slows,
menstruation stops (or never begins, in the case of pre-teen girls)
and the thyroid gland (which regulates growth) displays reduced
activity. The skin becomes dry while hair and nails become brittle.
Light-headedness, cold-intolerance, constipation and joint swelling
are other common symptoms. Soft hair called lanugo forms on the
skin for warmth. An extreme imbalance of body chemical may even
cause heart failure.
When anorectics also have bulimia, the effects are even worse.
The late recording artist Karen Carpenter, an anorectic who used
syrup of ipecac to induce vomiting, died after a build-up of the
drug irreversibly damaged her heart.