Consequence of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders have a higher death rate than any other psychiatric
disorder (including depression and schizophrenia).
The Eating Disorders Association estimate that the incidence of eating
disorders in the UK is approximately 165,000 with is an approximate
10% mortality rate. These deaths tend to be due to organ failure or
How serious the consequences are depends greatly upon how early an eating
disorder is identified and treated. With help, the effects of an eating
disorder can be treated; however, if an eating disorder is left untreated
for years, some of the effects are irreversible and life-threatening.
When an eating disorder is successfully treated, the body can heal and
return to normal. Sometimes, however, the eating disorder has continued
for so many years that there is too much damage for a full recovery
to occur. A person may have to live with a weak heart or kidney for
the rest of her life. A woman may be unable to conceive because her
reproductive system cannot function properly. Also a person may have
to live with osteoporosis.
Effects of Anorexia Nervosa
Starvation: Starvation can have very serious effects on all major body
systems and organs. The basic metabolic response to starvation is to
conserve body tissues and energy. However, the body will also start
to use its own tissue, including muscle and organs, for energy since
the body has no food to use instead, The liver and intestines
typically lose the highest percentage of their own weight during starvation,
followed by the heart and kidneys which both lose a moderate amount
of weight. This often causes permanent damage to the organs in the process.
Because someone's heart size may be reduced, they will experience low
blood pressure and a slowed pulse. It cans also lead to cardiac arrest
or kidney failure. Total starvation is usually fatal in 8 to 12 weeks.
Dehydration: the healthy functioning of cells and tissues is dependent
upon a certain level of water content in the body. Also, salt and other
minerals need to be kept within a narrow range. In a person who has
become dehydrated, it's possible they are suffering from a depletion
in salt as well as water. Long-term dehydration can
ultimately lead to kidney failure.
Muscle and cartilage: Over-exercise can put a huge strain on muscles
and cartilage, particularly if the exercise is concentrated on one area
for long periods of time.
Bones: Osteoporosis is a loss of protein matrix tissue (density) from
bones, leaving them brittle and susceptible to fracture. Although it
is a natural part of the aging process, the chances of developing osteoporosis
later in life are significantly increased for anorectics, due to hormone
changes. Bones may also stop growing, which causes stunted growth in
Irregular or abnormally slow heart rate: An irregular or slow heart
rate can mean that the heart muscle is undergoing changes. This is likely
to lead to low blood pressure and, the lower blood pressure and heart
rate goes, the greater the risk of heart failure.
Heart failure: The heart muscle is extremely sensitive and can become
thin and flabby from nutritional deficiency. A lack of calories and
protein can have a negative effect on the heart, and body chemical may
become so imbalanced that heart failure occurs.
Sexual function: the body does not have enough fat to produce oestrogen
in females, which will cause amenorrhea (cessation of periods) and infertility,
and testosterone in men, resulting in low sex drive.
Lanugo growth: lanugo (fine hair) grows all over the body to keep it
warm, compensating for the lack of insulating fat in the body.
Hyperactivity: The body relies on adrenaline (a hormone that is normally
released during times of stress and fear) instead of food for energy.
This causes excitability.
Effects of Bulimia Nervosa
The frequent purging that occurs with bulimia does serious damage to
Damages the digestive system: it can cause a peptic ulcer which
is an area of the stomach or duodenal lining which becomes eroded
by stomach acid. These are known as peptic ulcers. The symptoms can
vary, with some people not noticing anything out of the ordinary but
others may vomit blood and experience abdomen or chest pains. The
pain is usually increased when the individual eats or drinks. Peptic
ulcers can be serious and need immediate attention if you are vomiting
blood or passing digested blood in your stools.
Damages the oesophagus (throat), since stomach acid irritates the
oesophagus, which can cause inflammation and raw areas, sometimes
making swallowing painful. Of greater concern is a rupture of the
oesophagus, because this can be fatal in some cases. A Mallory-Weiss
tear is the technical term for the rupture or tearing of the mucous
membrane of the oesophagus at its junction with the stomach. It is
caused by repeated vomiting and the person will have bright red blood
in their vomit. You should always consult your doctor if you are vomiting
Brings stomach acids into the mouth, causing the tooth enamel to
wear away, and tooth decay to occur, giving the teeth a ragged appearance
and cavities. Eventually all teeth may need extraction. If you are
bulimic, it is recommended that you do NOT brush your teeth straight
after vomiting. Instead you should drink water, as this will be gentler
on your teeth and help replenish lost fluids.
Swollen salivary glands
Stomach cramps and difficulty in swallowing
Dehydration: The healthy functioning of cells and tissues is dependent
upon a certain level of water content in the body. Also, salt and
other minerals need to be kept within a narrow range. In a person
who has become dehydrated, it's possible they are suffering from a
depletion in salt as well as water. Long term dehydration can ultimately
lead to kidney failure. Amongst bulimics, dehydration usually occurs
because the stomach is being emptied of its gastric fluids.
Abuse of laxatives and diuretics:
Causes constipation, sicne the body can no longer produce a bowel
movement on its own
Bloating, water retention, and oedema (swelling) of the stomach.
Because the body is constantly being denied the nutrients and fluids
it needs to survive, the kidneys and heart will also suffer. Specifically,
a lack of potassium will result in cardiac abnormalities and possible
kidney failure, which can also result in death.
Effects of binge-eating
The phsical effects of binge eating are not as severe as with anorexia
and bulimia, since the body is not denied food or put through purges.
However this is not to say that there are not still serious consequences.
The obesity suffered by many binge eaters can cause complications such
as diabetes type II, or heart problems.
High blood pressure: overweight people between the ages of 20-45 have
a six times higher incidence of hypertension than do peers who are normal
weight. The risk appears to be even greater for older obese people.
Diabetes: even moderate obesity, especially when the extra fat is carried
in the stomach and abdomen (instead of hips and thighs), increases the
risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
Osteoarthritis: arthritis can occur in obese individuals because of
the extra strain being placed on the joints by the weight of the person.
Heart attack: high blood pressure and cholesterol dramatically increase
the chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
Yo-yo dieting can cause hypertension, and long-term damage to major
organs, such as the kidney, liver, heart, and muscles.