Adverse Effects of Anorexia on International Students

Students with anorexia will intentionally restrict their food intake due to the fear of becoming fat. Even when their body mass index (BMI) is already low, they exercise excessively, use laxatives, and vomit to reduce weight. The condition commonly involves emotional challenges, an unrealistic body image, and an exaggerated fear of becoming overweight or obese. They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they are fat even when they are underweight. People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because it causes them to starve. It is therefore very important to talk about Anorexia and its Effects on International Students. Obesity and anorexia are two extremes of the eating disorder pendulum and are unhealthy practices.

Anorexia (or anorexia nervosa) is a serious mental illness where people are of low weight due to limited energy intake. It can affect anyone of any age, gender, or background. Some people with anorexia may experience cycles of bingeing (eating large amounts of food at once) and then purging. It leads to difficulty in maintaining an appropriate body weight for height, age, and stature as well as a distorted body image. People with anorexia generally restrict the number of calories and the types of food they eat. The good news is that it’s treatable. With the right amount of support and treatment, you can bring balance back to your life by taking the right steps. However, if left untreated, anorexia can have some devastating effects.

It is advisable to visit a doctor when you notice the following issues:

  • Skipping meals
  • Frequent references or complaints about weight gain
  • Intense exercise regimens
  • Refusal to eat in public
  • Covering up in layers of clothing
  • Extreme thinness

How to know you are suffering from Anorexia Nervosa

Answer these 10 questions:

  • Have you recently noticed a drastic decrease in weight?
  • Do you struggle with maintaining healthy self-esteem?
  • Are you overly concerned about gaining weight?
  • Do you find yourself refusing or making excuses not to eat?
  • Are you self-conscious about your body image?
  • Do you exercise excessively?
  • Do you obsess over dieting?
  • Have you been distancing yourself from friends and family?
  • Are you often depressed?
  • Have you noticed dry or yellow tinted skin?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, you may be suffering from anorexia nervosa.

How Anorexia Affects International Students

Health Consequences

Anorexia as an eating disorder can lead to low academic performance compared to students with a perfect eating habit. Self-starvation while studying causes the body to be denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences. This is one of the major effects of anorexia on international students.

Social Life

Anorexia may affect your social life as an international student because you may not want to eat foods at social gatherings. This kind of mindset hinders such students from making friends thus not being exposed to a healthy social life. This is also one of the effects of anorexia on international students.

Dangers Of Anorexia

  • Heart rates drop to an abnormally slow rate.
  • Blood pressure drops.
  • Your blood count becomes abnormal.
  • The risk of heart failure increases.
  • You suffer the risk of osteoporosis and reduction in bone density.
  • Muscles deteriorate.
  • The body suffers from dehydration, leading to kidney failure.

Physical Symptoms

  • Extreme thinness.
  • Irregular periods in women.
  • Lower testosterone in men.
  • Feeling weak, fatigued, or dizzy, or experiencing fainting spells.
  • Dry skin may also take on a yellowish tint.
  • The bluish colour on the tips of the fingers.
  • Dry hair and hair loss.
  • Downy hair that grows over the skin in order to keep warm.

Anorexia affects all organs in the body and when it is not treated, the body becomes severely malnourished. This can result in damage that is not treatable, even if the disease is brought under control.

Certain Factors that increase the Risk of Anorexia

  • Genetics: Changes in specific genes may put certain people at higher risk of anorexia. Those with a first-degree relative — a parent, sibling or child — who had the disorder have a much higher risk of anorexia.
  • Dieting and starvation: Dieting is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder. There is strong evidence that many of the symptoms of anorexia are actually symptoms of starvation. Starvation affects the brain and influences mood changes, rigidity in thinking, anxiety and reduction in appetite. Starvation and weight loss may change the way the brain works in vulnerable individuals. This may perpetuate restrictive eating behaviours and make it difficult to return to normal eating habits.
  • Transitions: Moving to a new school, home or job; a relationship breakup; or the death or illness of a loved one, can bring emotional stress and increase the risk of anorexia.

Anorexia Treatment

Seeking anorexia recovery from a well-qualified team of eating disorder specialists is recommended. The team consisting of a therapist, physician and nutritionist will guide you back to eating healthy foods.

  • Medical: The highest priority in the treatment of anorexia nervosa is addressing any serious health issues that may have resulted from the eating disorder. Such as malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance, amenorrhea and an unstable heartbeat.
  • Nutritional: This component encompasses weight restoration, implementation and supervision of a tailored meal plan, and education about normal eating patterns.
  • Therapy: The goal is to recognize underlying issues associated with the eating disorder, address and heal from traumatic life events. It also involves learning healthier coping skills and further develop the capacity to express and deal with emotions.

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