In a healthy person, the mind and the body work together dynamically. But what happens when your brain turns against your body? As any victim of anorexia nervosa can attest, the consequences are both tragic and severe. In this illness, psychological and social factors create a disturbing self-image that results in a mental and physical deterioration.
Although traditionally associated with women, anorexia can also occur in men – in fact, one recent Harvard study reported that men represented around 25% of anorexic and bulimic patients.
On today’s show (Thursday, April 8, 2010), our guest Bryan struggles with the crippling hand of this devastating disease. Now 40 years old, Bryan has struggled with anorexia since high school. He currently weighs just 76 pounds and his body fat is less than 4%. A normal range for Bryan’s age is around 11% - 21.9%.
Without adequate fat intake, your body cannot make sufficient amounts of many basic hormones your brain needs to function properly. Brain cells begin to die as your blood sugar plummets. The victim is at risk for depression, infections, and severe heart problems because of a lack of electrolytes. If malnutrition becomes severe enough, every organ system in the body is at risk for irreparable damage.
Treatment for anorexia is complicated. It often is very difficult for a victim to identify their eating habits as the primary problem. Instead, they view their habits as a solution to other underlying issues, and never appreciate the actual disorder at work. Both nutritional restoration and emotional treatment are essential to achieving long-term recovery. If your partner or someone you know struggles with low weight and food restrictions, obsessions and compulsions, they could be at risk for an eating disorder.
For years, Bryan’s family has tried to understand the challenges he faces. As Bryan enters treatment, they remain optimistic and hopeful that he can significantly improve his quality of life. In the face of such a destructive and consuming illness, perhaps the greatest hope is for Bryan to make sense of the world around him by rebuilding a healthy relationship between body and mind.