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Excessive weight loss

Eating disorders occur in two forms: anorexia nervosa, commonly known as anorexia, and bulimia nervosa, commonly known as bulimia. Both forms are dangerous to the health and even the life of the affected individual.

Anorexia Nervosa (Anorexia)

It is a mental illness characterized by a strong fear of gaining weight, leading to avoidance of food. Affected individuals perceive themselves as much heavier and uglier than they are in reality, often experiencing disgust towards their own bodies and having a diminished sense of self-worth. They often feel full before even starting to eat. One of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia is a weight loss of over 15%.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Loss of appetite and an aversion to eating,
  • Extremely thin body, sharper facial features, dry skin, almost complete disappearance of fatty tissue,
  • General weakness, dehydration, sometimes cardiovascular symptoms,
  • Menstrual cessation is common in women,
  • With the progression of the disease, irritability increases, making it difficult to have calm conversations with the affected individual,
  • Withdrawal from others, loss of friends.

Anorexia can occur chronically with periods of remission and relapses or as a single episode of the disease. It happens that after several months of restricting food intake, a 40% weight loss occurs, and in extreme cases, even a 60% loss of the expected body weight.

Excessive weight loss


To reduce body weight, patients use various methods:

  • Radically reducing the amount of food consumed combined with periodic fasting,
  • Using laxatives and diuretics,
  • Inducing vomiting after each meal,
  • Engaging in significant physical activity to burn calories.

These methods lead to serious biochemical disturbances and disruptions in the functioning of many organs and systems. Some of them can be life-threatening. The mortality rate ranges from 4-22% depending on the studies. The most common causes of death are somatic disorders of the cardiovascular system, infections, and suicides. Somatic complications subside during treatment or after achieving a normal body weight.

Causes of anorexia include:

* Distorted body image - patients are unaware of how severely emaciated they are and do not see their thinness.
* Dissatisfaction with one's figure - leads to obsessive thoughts about eating and fear of gaining weight, resulting in the use of weight-loss diets that increase the risk of eating disorders.
* Belief that a slim figure helps in life - many teenagers believe that a nice figure will help them get a good job, find a boyfriend, gain the sympathy of peers, and establish a position within the family.
* Negative attitude towards maturation - girls suffering from anorexia avoid contact with others, especially boys. They deny their own sexuality. Often accompanying this is a sense of uncertainty about their attractiveness.
* Fear of "adulthood" - some women suffering from anorexia fear physical and psychological maturity. As a result of avoiding eating, the silhouette remains similar to that of a prepubescent child, menstruation does not appear or disappears.
* Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence - affected individuals are diligent, focus on studying, have a strong need for success, but also experience uncertainty, fear of failure, and excessive self-criticism.

Anorexia or bulimia?

In a certain number of patients with anorexia, periods of binge eating, called bulimic episodes, are observed. They alternate between strict dieting and periods of excessive overeating, probably because their bodies react physiologically to the lack of food. If binge eating does not occur alternately with anorexia, then this condition is called bulimia.
Ewa Maciocha, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist.



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