Health Risks Associated with Anorexia

Health Risks Associated with Anorexia

The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that here in America, 20 million women and 10 million men will experience some form of an eating disorder during their lifetimes. These severe illnesses are likely caused by a variety of sociocultural, genetic, and biological factors, and can strike anyone regardless of their gender, age, or background. There are many different types of eating disorders, one of which is known as anorexia nervosa. It’s important to understand the health risks associated with anorexia.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa often restrict how many calories they consume and what types of food they eat. They also may binge eat, purge by using laxatives or inducing vomiting, or compulsively work out. In growing children, anorexia nervosa may manifest in the inability to gain the appropriate amount of weight. Other potential hallmarks of anorexia include:

  • Weight loss
  • A distorted body image 
  • Having a hard time maintaining an appropriate weight for one’s stature

The disease has been around for hundreds or maybe even thousands of years. Furthermore, while it generally manifests during one’s adolescence, an increasing number of older adults and children are being diagnosed with it as well.

Physical Signs of Anorexia 

 Physical signs that may suggest someone is suffering from anorexia could include:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor wound healing
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Yellow skin from eating lots of carrots
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nonspecific gastrointestinal symptoms such as acid reflux or constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Sleep issues
  • Fainting
  • Abnormal bloodwork results such as low counts or anemia
  • Abnormal laboratory findings such as low hormone levels, slow heart rate, low potassium
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet
  • Swollen feet
  • Thinning hair on one’s head
  • Lanugo, or fine hair on the body
  • Dry skin
  • dry/brittle nails
  • Dental issues such as cavities, sensitivity, enamel erosion, tooth discoloration
  • Cuts and calluses on one’s finger joints, perhaps from induced vomiting
  • Swelling around the salivary glands

Emotional and Behavior Signs of Anorexia

There are also a myriad of emotional signs and behaviors that could be linked to anorexia. These may include:

  • Wearing layers to stay warm or hide weight loss
  • Denial of feeling hungry
  • Food rituals, such as excessively chewing or eating food in a certain order
  • Cooking meals for others that they don’t eat themself
  • Complaining about gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Making excuses to avoid meals or situations that involve food
  • Expressing the need to “burn off” any calories consumed
  • Having a rigid exercise regiment that takes precedence over fatigue, illness, injury, etc
  • Has a preoccupation with dieting, food, weight, calories
  • Refusing to eat certain foods, that may progress into restricting against entire categories
  • Frequently commenting about feeling “fat” despite having lost weight
  • Overly restrained emotional expression and initiative
  • Has a strong need to be in control
  • Feeling ineffective
  • Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
  • Worried about eating in public
  • Low spontaneity
  • Has a major fear of gaining weight
  • Has inflexible thinking
  • Has a distorted view of their body shape or weight
  • Denying the seriousness of having a low body weight
  • Having an undue influence of their weight or shape on their sense of self worth

Health Risks Associated with Anorexia

Other health risks that may come with anorexia nervosa include serious medical consequences from the body’s processes slowing down in an effort to conserve energy; this may come about as a result of a dangerous cycle of self-starvation, which denies the body of the nutrients it needs to properly function. In serious cases, individuals with anorexia nervosa could suddenly pass away due to cardiac arrest or electrolyte imbalances. This highlights the importance of getting the treatment one needs as soon as possible.

How to Get Help

While the side effects of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders can be serious or even fatal, it is important to always remember that they are, thankfully, treatable. One such way to do so is by calling an eating disorder hotline. You may also contact us at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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