Physical Consequences of Anorexia - Step To Health

Physical Consequences of Anorexia

Some physical consequences of anorexia nervosa are obvious, such as extreme thinness. However, there are also internal disorders derived from poor nutrient intake, such as anemia. Today's article will tell you more about it.
Physical Consequences of Anorexia

Last update: 19 October, 2021

Eating disorders such as anorexia are currently a major health problem worldwide. More and more people are becoming anorexic or bulimic. The worst part is that these conditions have many physical consequences in addition to psychological ones. Find out about the consequences of anorexia here.

Anorexia nervosa is a distorted perception of one’s body image. The people who experience it have a huge fear of gaining weight even though many of them have a low body mass index. Thus, they reduce their food intake to the point of not eating anything at all or just vomiting after they do.

Estimates indicate that this disorder affects about 2% of the population. However, its incidence is much higher in women, especially teenagers. The condition is highly influenced by the unreasonable beauty standards set by advertisers, the same that often lead to low self-esteem.

The problem is that it’s a difficult disorder to deal with and control. Extreme cases can even lead to death by starvation or the deterioration of body functions. Today’s article will explain the main physical consequences of anorexia, so continue reading.

How does anorexia manifest?

People with anorexia nervosa are afraid of gaining weight. Moreover, they’re usually obsessed with losing weight and will do anything to reduce their caloric intake with that goal in mind.

They usually keep track of every calorie they consume and some even stop eating entirely. Many of these people try to eat alone just to be able to throw away the food. They hide to be able to carry out their eating practices in the utmost secret.

Furthermore, some use laxatives, diuretics, and even enemas to eliminate the food they eat. They even induce vomit or exercise to the extreme. This is because they try to lose weight at all costs as they believe they’re overweight.

As you can imagine, people with anorexia have a deteriorated physical appearance. In addition to their extreme thinness, they’re often tired, pale, and frequently faint. One of the most common symptoms in women is amenorrhea.

A man with anorexia.
People with anorexia secretly engage in unhealthy practices.

Physical consequences of anorexia

The state of malnutrition resulting from anorexia has consequences on the whole organism. The physical ones are innumerable, and it isn’t necessary for them to have lost too much weight for these to appear.

For example, iron deficiency anemia is one of the earliest consequences. This is because the body can’t obtain the iron needed by the red blood cells to transport oxygen properly when we don’t eat enough. This is also partly the reason for the feeling of tiredness. Moreover, the symptoms of anemia appear as signs in addition to the other clinical signs that result from malnutrition.

The same applies to the loss of muscle and bone mass. In fact, there’s a greater risk of fractures in the event of a fall or blow as the bones become increasingly fragile. In addition, there may be cardiovascular problems, such as arrhythmias.


What's hyperkalemia?
Patients with anorexia don’t eat enough but they also don’t hydrate as they should and lose electrolytes.

We pointed out above that anorexia is life-threatening and this isn’t only due to a lack of weight. Another consequence is that there’s an imbalance in the electrolytes in their body.

This is because sodium, potassium, and calcium are necessary both to maintain nutrient balance and for the heart to function. In fact, the heart rhythm can change and stop, leading to death when electrolytes are disturbed.

Psychological consequences

These can be dire. Many people with anorexia have suicidal thoughts and try to self-harm. It is, therefore, important to treat this disorder gently.

Community support and support networks are key to avoiding fatal outcomes. Anorexia nervosa stems from an irrational misconception of one’s body. This is why the psychological plane is key.

A multidisciplinary approach to anorexia

We mustn’t forget that any eating disorder has a great mental impact and also many consequences at the physical level. Thus, it’s essential for the treatment of eating disorders such as anorexia to have a multidisciplinary and holistic approach.

The physical, psychological, and social aspects intertwine in conditions of this type and it’s a mistake to try to find a magic cure. Both the commitment of the health teams and the direct social networks are the best support against them.

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