The physical effects of anorexia

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Metabolism

When the body is starved of nutrients it seeks to conserve what reserves of energy it has in order to protect vital tissues. This is why as you continue to restrict your eating the amount of weight you lose will lessen over time. Basically the boy adapts to “famine conditions”, seeking ways to burn calories at a slower rate and so to preserve your health. As your metabolism rate slows, as does your growth rate. In pre-pubescent women, for example, with anorexia puberty is delayed.

The state of starvation causes feelings of fatigue and weakness as your body seeks to make you reduce physical activity and therefore conserve energy. In many cases, however, the psychological urge to increase activity and thus speed up weight loss will over-ride these physical feelings. As you seek to lose more and more weight your body is actually pitching against you: hence that feeling common in anorexia of being at war with your body. Ultimately is starvation continues the regulatory mechanisms of the body will be over-ridden. Epileptic fits are not uncommon amongst people with anorexia, usually occurring in the context of  disrupted internal environment.

The skin

The skin may become dry and crusted due to starvation. Also a fine layer of hair, called lanugo, may grow all over the body a bit like the “fuzz” on the skin of a peach. The skin may also develop an orange tinge, particularly on the pales of hands and soles of feet, this is caused by high levels of carotene in the blood due to the liver becoming unable to break it down.

Myopathy (muscle wasting and weakness)

When in a state of starvation the body turns to reserves within itself for energy, this included metabolising muscle. In extreme cases this includes heart muscle! This muscle wastage results in a drawn and haggard appearance.

The less muscle you have the slower you will burn calories. Also, as the muscles are not getting all the nutrients they need they work even less well than would be predicted from wastage alone. Signs of severe myopathy include difficultly climbing stairs, a flat footed method of walking an even an inability to stand from a squatting position without help.

Lower back pain

This can be caused due to bone thinning (osteoporosis) or, more usually, by the spinal column not having enough muscle support.

The brain

In advanced stages of starvation, shrinkage of the brain may occur.

The heart

In cases of severe starvation, the heart weakens and its efficiency at pumping blood is greatly reduced. Blood pressure becomes lower, which results in dizziness and fainting. In extreme cases cardiomyopathy can develop: this is characterised by the failure of the heart muscle to function efficiently, and can result in chest pains and palpitations.

The kidneys

These can be effected by the low blood pressure, making them less efficient and causing slow damage. Also dehydration and low levels of potassium can cause serious damage.

The immune system

This is greatly impaired by starvation.

The reproductive system

Starvation impairs fertility by causing the uterus and ovaries to shrink. Amenorrhea (cessation of menstruation) is an inevitable consequence.

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Orthorexia

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Why is it that we always get the “controversial” disorders? Lol

6 years ago I was anorexic, I “recovered” but still had the diagnosis of “EDNOS”, my doctor said it was Orothexia, but as this isn’t a “real” disorder EDNOS was the official diagnosis. During this period though my focus shifted, it was no longer and weight, calories, size, etc… Now it was about trying to be clear, pure, and uncontaminated. At first I just avoided E-numbers, then preservatives, then additives… over time the list got longer and longer… if we ever went out to eat or ate at someone else’s house so I didn’t know 100% what was inside the food then I had to “cleanse” myself… this would involve either purging or binge drinking pints upon pints of water and if I was not able to do either of these then I would need to “bleed out the contamination” later on that night by “blood letting”

Sometimes it would happen at home too… I never knew if I could or couldn’t eat something until I’d tried it… and the list of what I couldn’t eat seemed to be getting bigger and bigger…

By the end I was avoiding so much that I was barely eating, it had gotten to the point where my food intake wasn’t much more than it had been during my anorexic period, at one point it go down to my living off apples, oranges and vitamin supliments…. As well as this my purging and water binging had begun to mess up my electrolyte balance.

16 months ago I ended up admitted to hospital for a suspected heart attack!!! It ended up that I was having multiple tachycardic episodes… after several tests it ended up that my heart muscle had being damaged from the electrolyte issues… even now my heart has not recovered, apparently if my old diet had continued for much longer I would have died…

Though to be honest my eating still isn’t great, the list of things I avoid is still high and I still cannot eat anything pre-packaged, anything from a take-away, anything cooked by anyone other than myself, andthing where I cannot source all the ingredients, etc… but at least I’m no longer risking death

Slip-ups are part of ED recovery

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Hi, I’m Rachel (hense the green lol – we all colour coded ourselves here


Anyway, I wanted to take part, to help. We have been thinking a lot on eating disorders recsntly, in part as Sarah is struggling with ED thoughts at the moment which is effecting all of us in a negative light what it comes to food.


We had a slight ED slip-up last week, but these ARE part of recovery, and I wish to explain why this is and how it’s all a case of  HOW you think or percieve it.


Instead of thinking about it as, “There goes all my hard work, screw it then, might as well eat and purge forever now!” think about it as what it was – A bump on the road to recovery.I mean noone said that the path to recovery was easy nor smooth

The all-or-nothing thinking of eating disorders can sabotage us in recovery, because it tells us that one slip-up immediately means we have failed. In reality, recovery is a process – a marathon and not a sprint.


So, you ate well for a week? So… 7 days, 3 meals a day. That means that you had 21 opportunities to fail, right? 21 chances to eat, then puke. …But you? You succeeded 20 of those times. 20 outta 21 ain’t bad.

In fact: *does math on calculator*… You’ve scored 95.3% on recovery!!!!!!!!!!!!!


That is nowhere near bad, nowhere near failing, nowhere near ground zero. Just get up where you fell down. No need to backtrack.

Rachel

*sighs*

the way my mum talks about her work upsets me… she keeps going on about the people she works with and how awful there lives are, how vulnerable they are, how their existance is so so so awful yet they “get on with it”. She is so nice about them, she goes on about how strong and amazing they are to manage to live without family, or without work, or with X, Y and Z in their pasts. Yet me… well apparently NOTHING I could feel, see or experiance could ever be as bad as what they hae happen.

Earler she was talking about one of them who was raped, and how awful it was and how bad she feels for them. And how she is going to ring her tomorrow because it’s christmas and she wants to check onn her. Which is nice, and a good thing to do. But when I tod her I had been raped it was all “get over it”, “stop moaning”, “it wasn’t real rape”, etc…
Why does she care so much more about everyone else then she does about me?

and when I pointed out earlier that I did know what EDs were (when she was explaining this persons situration in a way that you may describe EDs to someone who’d never heard of one) and that I did used to have one she said “yet but with you it was a phase, with her it’s a real and dangerous illness”!!! I was fucking hospitalised!!! how is that “just a phase”???? And I may not be dangerously under weight anymore but I still struggle with food, after 6 years… how can 6 years be a phase?????


our time in the mental health system

I don’t remember much before the age of 16… I know that my eating habbits were bad and my mum had kept forcing me to doctors saying I had an ED, though she thought I was eating “too much” despite being very underweight . and I know that I haad been to see the school counsellor a few times, but can’t remember what came of that

When I was 16 I got put in hospital for about 2 weeks, I can’t remember how long exactly… I had attempted suicide while pregnant and lost the child. While I was there I got told a load of rubbish about how at 16 I could not possibly have any real reason to try to kill myself.

About 4 months later I was hospitalised again, and diagnosed with anorexia. They kept me there until I was an “acceptable” weight then released me and I never heard from them again

When I was 17, I went to a doctor and told them I was loosing time and hearing whispering, that there were “children” in my head and that I would find writting and art around my home that was not by me. They told me to stop drinking :/ despite the fact that at this point in life I had never drunk alcohol

When I was 18 I ended up in hospital after a stupid act of trying to make myself “clean”… basically I dunk some cleaning products and burnt my esothagus… I had to see an on call psych again, this time she came to the conclusion that “voices told me to do it”, which they didn’t! I just wanted to be clean…

When I was 19 I went to see a councillor who told me I was beyond her skill and to go to a doctor. So I went to a doctor saying that i thought I had an anxiety disorder only to be told it was “stress” and “homesickness”, even though I had moved away from “home” 3 years before

So I went back to the counsellor. I told her a lot, about nightmares, flashbacks, “loosing” full days, etc. But she was always more interested in my financial situation than my actually problems

I went to another doctor, this one told me that I was just stressed and prescribed me sme sleeping tablets which I then ODed on… The on call psych in the hospital basically called me a melodramatic attention seaker…

I went to another doctor, this one told me to “stop living in the past” and that what I went though was “not that bad, at least no one died”

10 months ago I went to another doctor who referred me to a psychologist. I saw her for 4 weeks before she referred me to psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy said that I was “not bad enough” and so I was removed from the waiting list…

My GP sent me to the urgent referral team at the psych hospital, who screaned me for psychosis and she promised me a CPN

2 weeks later I was told that I was not “bad enough” for a CPN

I went back to my GP and told her a load of stuff I had not soken to her about before (i.e. the “people in my head”) and she phoned the psych hospital to ty to get me seen again

Not long after this I “lost” a few hours and ended up ODing during this time. I went to hospital and the on call psych came to see me… she told me that the abuse was all my fault, that I was never raped, that I was making a big deal out of nothing and that DID was not real so I should stop being stupid and just admit that I tried to kill myself… she said that the abuse from my ex wasn’t abuse and that my parents were at worst “slightly emotionally abusive” but not enough to have “messed me up” so I should just stop making a big deal out of nothing

This resulted in several weeks of not leaving bed, crying all the time, and loosing a lot of time where I would “come back” to massive cuts and quite disturbing writing…

5 months ago I got another psychologist, after only 2 sessions with her though she took me off her service. She didn’t believe that DID exists

3 months ago I got a new psychologist. She has diagnosed me with PTSD, DID and EDnos, and suspects mild agrophobia… she took me to see a dissocosiation specialist who “brought out” the alters and stuff…

So… taken 6 years, but I finally have a diagnosis lol. But… I am being referred again after Christmas…

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