When the topic of anorexia comes up, the first image that usually pops to mind is that of a dangerously emaciated young woman counting every calorie on her plate. As the popular image of anorexia, it does a disservice to many of its sufferers by making them invisible to the public eye. While many anorexics are dangerously underweight, the most dangerous part of the condition is a diet dangerously low in calories. There are many who are technically overweight, which, in their struggle to drop pounds, maintain a diet that fits this description.
Does Weight Define Anorexia?
Unfortunately, as of the composition of this article, the answer is essentially yes. The latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental-Disorders (DSM-5) indicates that a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa requires the patient to have “significantly low body weight.” Medically speaking, this means that an individual must have a BMI of under 18.5 to qualify as anorexic, regardless of their dietary habits. This is a tragic problem in the system as a diagnosis of anorexia is required for the patient to receive life-saving treatment for the condition.
A Changing Definition of Anorexia?
There is a rising number of cases of patients who exhibit anorexia related behaviors which do not fit the weight profile for anorexics. Patients who are experiencing dramatic weight-loss without ever falling beneath the 18.5 ceilings are not currently considered anorexic. This may be in spite of a calorie intake that could lead to significant health problems and does not take into account anorexia related behaviors such as laxative abuse. Obsessive calorie counting, restricted calorie intake, and a hatred of their body and its appearance can all be present, and still, no diagnosis of anorexia will be made. All of these, with the exception of that one critical metric (<18.5 BMI), are classic signs of anorexia.
What Consequences Are There For Those Fitting This Profile?
The health consequences of anorexia related behavior can be dramatic and long-lasting. A weight that yo-yos, rotting teeth, and low blood pressure are just a few of the life-altering symptoms that these patients may experience. Presently there is an alternative diagnosis for those who fail to meet the BMI rating necessary for anorexia. Listed as OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder), this does provide a place for anorexics that fall into the ‘atypical anorexic’ category. While this is a move in the proper direction, atypical anorexia should be classified as a condition alongside anorexia, rather than being lumped in with OSFED.
If you or someone you love is suffering from symptoms related to atypical anorexia, know that there is support available throughout New Jersey. Family Psychiatry & Therapy provides mental health services for patients in the Paramus and East Orange areas. Don’t let your eating disorder destroy your life! Take control of it by getting help from experts like those at Family Psychiatry & Therapy. Call today, and@, we’ll schedule an appointment at one of our New Jersey locations and set you on the road to recovery!