THE BLOG

We Need to Talk About Ana

28/08/2015 09:30 BST | Updated 27/08/2016 10:59 BST

She or he is a mysterious being. Ana never ages nor dies, and can target all- regardless of their gender, orientation and age.

Anorexia is not just about counting calories and working out at the gym excessively. It is a life threatening illness, whereby a person becomes obsessive over their weight and becomes intensely afraid of gaining weight. They see visions of extremely distorted perceptions of their body that may not otherwise be true.

I have read countless articles about Anorexia Nervosa and watched many documentaries showing the detrimental impact the illness can have on people, but some say you never truly feel the impact until you see it first-hand.

Anorexia Nervosa first became ubiquitous as early as the 1600s but became a fully recognised medical condition during the 19th century. Now in the 21st century it is said to be one of the leading in deaths related to mental health conditions in both male and females. This is often overlooked.

"You're a boy. Anorexia doesn't impact boys". This is actually a preconception some people have. How can a mental illness be based on gender? Yes some genders may be more susceptible to an illness but it should not lead to discrimination and lack of support. The symptoms males express are fairly similar to that of female Anorexia sufferers. They may be even more so secretive but there is not much difference. It's said to be a 'silent epidemic' in the western world, as many males are afraid to speak out due to various social 'stigmas' attached to males and mental health. Anorexia is perceived as something young girls develop but this isn't true. Males are suffering just as much.

It is difficult to judge how you would react to the news of a loved one being diagnosed- and that is what instills fears in many sufferers of Anorexia.

I spoke very recently to a young girl barely a year older than myself who overcame her battles and is now studying at her dream university; others haven't been so lucky. Losing a friend to the illness triggered questions in my mind. "Why?" "Why did I or others not support them? Did we realise?" it's natural to feel burdened with questions and regret after losing someone, but when it is a visible and progressive illness, and you see the person change so rapidly you can't help but feel hopeless. I am full of regret and anger at myself for not seeing my friend more when they were diagnosed but I know they knew I cared. I think part of me was too scared to want to see them- It was fear of actively seeing someone you know change into someone you knew. I know that is what a lot of sufferers are worried about but I can assure you that if a person truly cares for you they will stick by your side regardless.

Many people just presume that all those suffering from Anorexia are thin. This is not strictly accurate. It is a mental health condition and the perception of yourself is altered within your mind. Anorexia comes within all shapes and sizes. Anorexia itself does not discriminate. Humans do. Many people get overlooked as they appear healthy but in stark reality the damage they are doing by restricting themselves is injurious.

If you suspect you or someone you know may have Anorexia then you shouldn't second guess yourself. Visit your doctor and explain how you are feeling. If you can, keep a record of what you are eating and when you eat. Also, keep tabs on the emotions you feel around those times. No one deserves to battle alone and in silence. The faster you can pinpoint these things in either yourself or others- the faster relevant treatment can begin.

And if you are supporting someone through this then stay strong. They need you to be. They are full of intense regret and self-deprecation, and your support and love will be one thing getting through the barrier and to the starting line of a healthy life. Finally: If you have lost a loved one then hang in there, try and use light in a negative situation and help others to see the impact of loss this illness has- you have the power to show sufferers the need for change. It is normal to feel hurt and regret, but don't let those emotions impact you negatively.You are valuable to this world and don't feel that you have lost value by losing a loved one. Stay strong and let's talk about Ana.

How to spot the signs slideshow:

Spotting The Signs Of An Eating Disorder

Useful websites and helplines:

Beat, call 0845 634 7650 or email fyp@b-eat.co.uk

Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393