Anorexia: What Is It and Who Gets It?

Anorexia nervosa, mostly referred to as ‘anorexia’ is one of the three related eating disorders – Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Binge-Eating Disorder. A person is considered anorexic when they restrict their food intake such that significant weight loss and low body weight is reached. This is usually followed by feelings of paranoia about weight gain.

Anybody can be anorexic, male, female, young or old. However, several recorded cases are of high achievers, or those whose careers place them under public glare such that they become image-conscious and consequently, weight-watchers. Public figures like actors/actresses, models, sportsmen and women, dancers, musicians, athletes.

Contrary to wrong perceptions that anorexia is borne of vanity, there is actually no known cause of anorexia, however it can run in families. Others could be based personality traits, psychological and environmental factors. How then do you identify someone who might be suffering from Anorexia?

  • Amenorrhea (an abnormal absence of menstruation, or loss of three consecutive menstrual cycles)
  • Extreme weight loss or thin appearance
  • Dizzy spells or fainting
  • Favours low calorie diets
  • Feels a need to be in control
  • Impaired immunity
  • Gastro intestinal complaints
  • Depression
  • Thinning hair/ hair loss
  • Weird dining behavior like hiding food, and paying too much attention to dining activities than the actual eating
  • Poor wound healing
  • Avoids eating in company of others or in public

…and so many others.

The Nigerian culture is such that people throw around weight related terms causally, with no regard to impact or how it affects the person. If you’ve not heard the term ‘orobo’ or ‘lepa’ before, then you might have said it to someone without meaning anything by it. And culturally, not many people mean anything by it when they do it. In fact, in hausa, people are actually addressed directly by their obvious physical traits – dongo yaro (tall boy), gurgu (cripple)… Yes, even cripples are addressed as ‘hey, cripple!’ (technically that’s how it would sound if translated to English).

So whether you mean anything by it or not, a little sensitivity helps in defining communications and relations with others. You don’t want your comment to be that little extra push that would finally push them over the edge or the cyber bully that hit someone who may already be down.

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