After writing two posts yesterday which were both to do with the weight related aspects of recovery, I wanted to write a post highlighting the fact that recovery is about more than just gaining weight. Since anorexia is a mental illness with physical side effects, whether a person is recovered should be determined by what is happening in a persons mind, rather than just how they appear on the outside.
Considering Anorexia is a mental illness, I think that there has been far too much focus on weight when determining whether a person is suffering/recovered from anorexia in the past. One of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia was once that the patient needed to have a bmi under a certain range- I think it was 17.5. Now however this is not considered as an important diagnistic criteria as a patient could be having anorexic thoughts and behaviours while at a slightly higher bmi than 17.5.
An anorexic patient should never be declared recovered until a full psychological examination is performed on the patient as well as a physical exam.
When I left hospital I was weight restored and no one would have ever guessed I had anorexia but my mind was still as anorexic as ever. I was not recovered, in fact my anorexia was every bit as bad the day I left hospital as it was the day I went to hospital. It is completely normal for people to experience weight restoration and physical recovery before they recover mentally. The reasons why this is the case are explained in the following information, sourced from here.
There is one finding about anorexia which seems to me more crucial to treating it successfully than anything else. It is a counterintuitive insight, but one that seems – like all the best facts – completely obvious when once one knows it. It is this: that for the anorexic, gaining weight is the prerequisite for mental recovery, rather than vice versa. Put another way: you can’t make an anorexic want to put on weight until he or she has begun to do so. Put yet another way: the mind may make the body sick, but only the body can help the mind be well again.
- Extreme weight loss
- Thin appearance
- Abnormal blood counts
- Dizziness or fainting
- Bluish discoloration of the fingers
- Hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- Soft, downy hair covering the body
- Absence of menstruation
- Dry or yellowish skin
- Intolerance of cold
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of arms or legs
Emotional and behavioral symptoms
- Severely restricting food intake through dieting or fasting and may include excessive exercise
- Bingeing and self-induced vomiting to get rid of the food and may include use of laxatives, enemas, diet aids or herbal products
- Preoccupation with food
- Refusal to eat
- Denial of hunger
- Fear of gaining weight
- Lying about how much food has been eaten
- Flat mood (lack of emotion)
- Social withdrawal
- Reduced interest in sex
- Depressed mood
- Thoughts of suicide