Consequences of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening psychological eating disorder. People suffering from anorexia typically engage in abnormal eating patterns due to an obsession with obtaining and keeping a thin figure. There are two common types of the disorder: restrictive anorexia and binge/purge anorexia.

Restrictive anorexia is characterized greatly restricting the amount of food that one consumes. Often, a person with restrictive anorexia only consumes foods which are low in fat or sugar. Their total caloric consumption is much less than what is needed to maintain a healthy weight which, when untreated, will eventually result in starvation.

Binge/purge anorexia involves the process of eating and then eliminating foods. Elimination can be accomplished by either vomiting right after eating or by using laxatives. Sometimes diuretics are also used to further purge the body of any excess calories and weight.

Anorexia nervosa is very different from dieting. While dieting is a process that primarily aims to control one’s diet and weight to become healthy or maintain one’s health, anorexia is driven by psychological issues. It is very common for people who have the disorder to be diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

According to Psychology Today, BDD is “a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. An individual with body dysmorphic disorder is overly preoccupied with what are perceived to be gross imperfections in their appearance and spends an hour or more, every day, thinking about the way they look. In reality, the imperfections are imagined or only slight and barely noticed by others, if at all. The affected person may be obsessed with certain body parts, particularly related to their face or head, or with their weight or body shape.”

Both men and women suffer from this eating disorder, however, teens or young adults are much more likely to be diagnosed with anorexia.

Consequences of Anorexia
For people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, the list of consequences and harmful results can be long. Because this is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, BDD-related obsessions can present themselves in different ways and, for the patient, the act of focusing on anything but the perceived imperfections is difficult. Repetitive and compulsive behaviors, sometimes practiced as a way to correct perceived flaws, can manifest in the following ways:
  • Excessive grooming, checking image in the mirror, or avoiding mirrors
  • Skin picking
  • Excessive exercise
  • Comparing the body to others
  • Seeking surgery for body enhancement
  • General anxiety issues
  • Avoidance of social settings and events
Physical side-effects or symptoms related to anorexia include:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • Bloating or constipation
  • Sleeping issues
  • Fine hair growth on the body
  • Poor circulation, resulting in discolored hands and feet
  • Feeling cold
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Teeth erosion and gum issues (from vomiting after eating)
  • Headaches
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Bone density loss
  • Amenorrhea
For a person still in their growing years, anorexia can have devastating consequences. Perhaps the most harmful are the ones that are unseen and irreversible, having been brought on by self-starvation. These effects, for both male and female anorexia patients, include:
  • Hormone irregularities, including infertility
  • Heart disease, due to deterioration of the heart muscles
  • Brain shrinkage, which can also result in a lowering of IQ
  • Skeletal system damage, most notably osteopenia (loss of bone calcium) and osteoporosis (loss of bone density) for females
Consequences of Anorexia
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