Anorexia Claims Isabelle Caro, Many Others

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Isabelle Caro, a French actress and model who began suffering from anorexia at age 13, died on November 17 at the age of 28. Ms. Caro is one of the latest victims to die of this disease, yet most do not attract the amount of attention she did during her short lifetime.

Anorexia is a devastating and deadly disease

Isabelle Caro’s participation in a “No Anorexia” campaign when she posed naked garnered global attention about the disease and her efforts to overcome it. Part of that effort also included writing a book entitled The Little Girl Who Didn’t Want to Get Fat, and serving as a jury member on Top Model France.

Daniele Dubreuil-Prevot, Caro’s acting instructor, told the AP that Caro “had been sick for a long time” and that her death and illness “are an absolute waste.”

Anorexia predominantly affects adolescent girls, as it did for Caro, and young adult women, although about 10 percent of those affected are males. Younger women are especially vulnerable to eating disorders because of society’s emphasis on an “ideal” figure.

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder defined by a refusal to maintain minimal body weight within 15 percent of a person’s normal weight. Other characteristics of the disorder include an intense fear of gaining weight, denial of the seriousness of the disease, distorted body image, and in females, absence of menstruation.

The starvation experienced by people with anorexia can cause damage to organs such as the heart, brain, and kidneys. Heart failure and irregular heart rhythms can occur, as well as low blood pressure and low pulse rate. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis and a reduction in brain volume. In the worst cases, death occurs. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.

The national statistics for anorexia reveal that the death rate is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females ages 15 to 24. Twenty percent of people who have anorexia will die prematurely from complications related to the disease, including suicide. Up to 10 percent of anorexics die within 10 years of developing the disease, 18 to 20 percent will die within 20 years.

Isabelle Caro left behind haunting images of what it is like to suffer with anorexia. Her life and her death are vivid reminders of what can happen when a desire to be thin is so overwhelming, it literally takes your breath away.

SOURCES:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Sullivan PF. American Journal of Psychiatry 1995; Jul; 152(7): 1073-74
USA Today/AP

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