Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.

People who have anorexia have problems with eating. They are very anxious about their weight. They keep it as low as possible, by strictly controlling and limiting what they eat.

They starve themselves to lose weight because they:

  • Think they are fat or overweight.
  • Have a very strong fear of being fat.
  • Want to be thin.

Even if they are already very thin and underweight, they continue to want to lose weight.

People with anorexia are obsessed with food, eating and calories. Sometimes they try to get rid of food from their body, for example, by making themselves vomit.

The dictionary definition of anorexia is simply, loss of appetite, but we usually use this term only to refer to the dramatic inability to eat, allied to serious psychological disturbances, and usually seen in young girls and women.

Anorexia can be a serious condition. Starving yourself affects every part of your body and can lead to health problems. If anorexia is not treated, these problems can become severe and even life-threatening. Sometimes people can have anorexia for years before seeking help.

Aromatherapy alone is almost certainly not enough to help an anorexic girl, but allied to skilled counselling or psychotherapy, essential oil treatments can be very valuable. Massage helps to bring the receiver into contact with her own body, and this is important, since so many sufferers are alienated from their physical bodies, or even develop a strong self-loathing.

The choice of essential oils will depend very much on the individual needs and preferences of the girl receiving treatment, but will almost always need to be selected from among those which have a calming, soothing and antidepressant effect, such as Lavender, Camomile, Neroli, Ylang Ylang and Clary Sage. Bergamot is almost always important, for not only is it a powerfully uplifting oil, but it may help to regulate appetite. A number of standard works describe Bergamot as increasing the appetite, though in the case of anorexia, the action of Bergamot on an emotional level, leading to some reduction in the stresses that have brought about the inability to eat, is probably more important.

Very often, an anorexic girt is afraid of growing up, and cannot come to terms with her own potential sexuality and having an adult woman's body. Rose oil cries out to be used here. It relates to women's sexuality on every level, physical and emotional, and creates a wonderful feeling of being pampered, which is also a great help in restoring self esteem. Jasmine might be useful as a confidence-boosting alternative.

A high level of vitamin and mineral supplementation should be advised, especially of Vitamin B complex and zinc. Initially, very small, but frequent, meals should be made up of fruits, raw vegetables, tiny amounts of dried fruits and nuts. Such a regime is not seen as a threat by most anorexics, as these foods are often thought of as 'slimming'. At the same time, they are full of vital nutrients. Gradually, a simple wholefood diet can be introduced.

Baths with essential oils will be very helpful in between massage sessions, and here again, the idea of pampering and nurturing comes in. Once the therapist has some idea of which oils the girl really responds to, she can prepare some bath oils using these favourites and perhaps add some of the same oils to a body lotion for use after bathing. Emphasis should be on the luxurious' oils (providing that their perfume is appreciated). Applying the lotion to her own body is also a form of therapy for an anorexic girl, and as progress is made, this might even be extended into some self-massage with oils mixed by the therapist for use at home.

This is obviously an area where enormous sensitivity is needed, and trust needs to be built up between the therapist and the patient before there can be any hope of improvement. Some people make a full recovery from anorexia, and others can improve their condition. However, anorexia can also become a chronic condition and occasionally, can be fatal.

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