Anorexics, even those who are outgoing and happy, may become withdrawn and non-communicative when they suffer from the disease. Dr. Lucas writes of one of his patients, "She withdrew even more. One evening her mother found her curled up in her closet, crying hysterically" (Lucas 15). As young women lose weight, often their families become concerned about their weight loss and health, and may try to force the girl to eat or visit a family doctor. This can lead to increased stress and unhappiness in the family, putting more pressure on the sufferer. Many young women with anorexia see themselves as totally in control of their own bodies, and giving up that control (by eating more) is frightening and even horrible to them. This leads to mental anguish and fear of discovery. Many anorexics start to spend much time alone, shutting themselves off from family and friends and any criticism that might come from them. Anorexia can also lead to emotional stress and strain.
Emotionally, many anorexics may seem strong and in control, but in reality they are emotionally unhappy and stressed. It is very difficult to keep new and unusual eating habits from family and friends, and it is stressful to be questioned about them by different people. Because of the many physical aspects of the disease, sufferers may not be feeling as well physically as they normally did, and they may react more emotionally to criticism at school, at work, or at home. Dr. Lucas noted that his patient's mother found her "crying hysterically" in a closet during her bout with the disease, and this was an emotional reaction that was not usual for her. Anorexia breaks down the body, which can also lead to a breakdown in the mind and in the emotions. The body is not functioning like it should, and neither is the mind or the emotions. Thus, this disease can help destroy how a person sees the world and how they deal with outside and internal forces.
As the body changes physically, the mind and emotions change too. An anorexic may think they look great being extremely thin, and if they receive any criticism from friends or family they may react with anger and frustration. They feel they alone are in control of their body and what they put in it, and they may alienate friends and loved ones because of their attitude and their need for ultimate control over their body.
Amazingly, anorexia also takes many forms. Some anorexics eat fairly normally, but force themselves to exercise for hours at a time to burn up calories. Some experts call this "activity anorexia." Two experts in this field, W. Frank Epling and W. David Pierce note, "Activity anorexia occurs when food intake declines, and this reduction in caloric intake results in an increase in physical activity. Increased physical activity causes an additional decline in food intake, which further increases activity, and so on" (Epling and Pierce 3). Many studies have also shown that anorexia affects teen men too; especially those involved in many sports activities including anything from gymnastics to wrestling and marathon runners (Epling and Pierce 70). In fact, many sports and activities encourage an extremely small, petite physique, such as ballet, gymnastics, and even jockeys in horse racing and this may encourage these athletes to become anorexic to keep their jobs and their sports.
In conclusion, anorexia is certainly a dangerous disease that can destroy a person's life. Many people die from the disease, but many others suffer from it for years, and find they can never quite overcome the disease. Dr. Lucas said poignantly of sufferers of anorexia, "But inside their bodies grows a malady that can be as relentless and destructive as cancer. Often it is as difficult to heal, and sometimes it leads as inexorably to death" (Lucas ix). Young women are starving themselves to death, but they are also destroying their minds and their emotions in the process.
Epling, W. Frank and W. David Pierce, eds. Activity Anorexia Theory, Research, and Treatment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996.
Goff, Karen Goldberg. "Research Ties Bulimia, Anorexia to Genetics." The Washington Times 2 Apr. 2000: 4.
Gooberman-Hill, Rachael. "Feeding Anorexia: Gender and Power at a Treatment Center." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 10.3 (2004): 743+.
Lager, E. Grace, and Brian R. McGee. "Hiding the Anorectic: A Rhetorical Analysis of Popular Discourse concerning…