Consequences of Eating Disorders


Problems arising from eating disorders go way beyond weight gain or loss, since eating disorders impact on one’s overall physical and emotional well-being.

The medical complications of anorexia nervosa are mainly related to malnutrition. In an effort to save energy, the organism “goes into hibernation”. Dry skin, growth of excessive fine hair (lanugo) over the face and upper body, hair loss, nail changes, hypothermia, abnormally slow heart rate, hypotension, dizziness, cardiac arrhythmias, cerebral atrophy leading to impairment of attention, memory and concentration, irritation, depression, muscle loss/weakness, constipation, amenorrhea, growth arrest in puberty and premature osteoporosis are only a few of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa.

Weight restoration back to normal leads to the reduction of the complications mentioned above, except for the osteoporosis and cerebral atrophy. Anorexia nervosa may coexist with other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders and personality disorders. Treating anorexia nervosa is a difficult task. The problem must be approached by various experts and treatment should include medical monitoring, nutrition therapy, as well as both individual and family psychotherapy. Hospitalization is recommended in cases where outpatient treatment fails or the patient’s nutritional state is deemed life-threatening.

In anorexia nervosa the organism is forced to slow down its processes so as to save energy. Thus, adolescent growth is influenced and heart function is disturbed, as well as bone density, electrolytes and body fluids.

The skin turns dry and hair growth changes. There is cold intolerance, fatigue and weakness. The mortality rate of anorexia nervosa is approximately 5 percent. Death is mainly due to the cardiac complications of malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances and suicide. The percentages mentioned above classify anorexia nervosa among the most life-threatening mental disorders. In fact, fewer than half of the surviving patients fully recover, in 30 percent of the cases the disorder relapses, while 20 percent of the patients remain chronically ill.

In the case of bulimia nervosa, the vicious circle of binge eating and vomiting/pill use creates problems in the stomach, oesophagus and teeth, as well as electrolyte disturbances which impact on heart function. The consequences of compulsive overeating are similar to those of obesity, pertaining mainly to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Eating disorders are real, complex, destructive conditions, which may have serious consequences on one’s health, professional career and interpersonal relationships. Eating disorders are not just a “passing fad” or a “phase”. On the contrary, they are particularly serious, eventually lethal conditions, which influence one’s emotional and physical well-being.

Individuals who suffer from an eating disorder should ask for professional help. The sooner they seek treatment, the greater the chances of physical and mental recovery.

Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa:
The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles that characterize bulimia nervosa can damage the entire digestive system and lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body. This situation may affect the heart and other major organ functions.

  • Loss of electrolyte that can lead to irregular heartbeat and possibly heart failure or death. Electrolyte imbalance is due to dehydration, which is caused by the loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of self-induced vomiting.
  • ossible gastric bleeding during binge eating episodes.
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the oesophagus due to frequent vomiting.
  • Tooth decay and staining from the gastric acids released during vomiting.
  • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
  • Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis.


Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder:
In most cases, binge eating disorder hides the same health risks as those associated with clinical obesity.

  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol levels.
  • Heart disease due to high triglyceride levels.
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type II.
  • Gallbladder disease.