Anorexia can deteriorate a person’s health and lead to death. It is characterized by a distorted perception of self-image and a compulsive tendency to restrict their food intake. According to Eating Disorder Hope, anorexia has the highest mortality rate among all psychiatric disorders. The disorder can cause starvation and life-threatening weight loss.

A 2011 study published in JAMA Psychiatry examined mortality rates among people with eating disorders, including anorexia. The report concluded that people with eating disorders have significantly elevated mortality rates and that anorexia was associated with the highest death rates. Researchers stated that young people with eating disorders are particularly susceptible to health complications that can lead to death.

Many of the effects of anorexia can progress into more serious health problems that can cause death. Anorexia can shrink the brain, produce dangerously low blood-sugar levels and significantly damage the skeletal system. This eating disorder can also reduce bone density that can bring about osteoporosis, which can be fatal. Osteopenia or osteoporosis can increase the risk of fractures.

Eating disorders like anorexia can also cause dehydration that can produce electrolyte imbalances in the body. Irregular electrolyte levels can result in cardiovascular problems. People who experience anorexia can also deal with low blood pressure and an abnormally slow heart rate. A slower-than-normal heart rate, a condition called bradycardia, can lead to heart failure, cardiac arrest or death.

Anorexia and other eating disorder can also result in developing other mental health disorders. Depression often co-occurs with anorexia. People who grapple with depression can develop suicidal thoughts. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, suicide is the cause of 1 in 5 anorexia-related deaths.

Treatment for anorexia can reduce a person’s risk of experiencing life-threatening health problems. People who experience anorexia and a substance use disorder can seek treatment at a rehab center. To learn more about how treatment can help people with anorexia and addiction, contact The Recovery Village.


Arcelus J, Mitchell AJ, Wales J, Nielsen S. “Mortality Rates in Patients With Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders.” JAMA Network, July 2011. Accessed February 19, 2019.

ANAD. “Eating Disorder Statistics.” (n.d.) Accessed February 19, 2019.