Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and extreme weight loss. Due to a lack of vital nutrients and vitamins, the body’s reaction to this behavior can result in severe and often life-threatening side effects.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, anorexia has one of the highest death rates of any mental health condition. Between 5 and 20 percent of people who struggle with the eating disorder will die, and the probability of death increases the longer a person has anorexia.
If you or someone you know is suffering from anorexia, here are some of the side effects of the eating disorder that you should be aware of:
Weakness and fatigue: People with anorexia often feel fatigued and weak, and may be prone to fainting. That is because anorexics do not get proper nutrition, resulting in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, malnutrition and electrolyte imbalances. Anorexics also often experience depression, which can lead to even more fatigue.
Heart problems: Anorexics put themselves at high risk for heart attack and heart failure. Anorexia causes an abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which increase the chances of experiencing heart problems.
Paralysis: Temporary paralysis can be caused by low levels of potassium or the degeneration of nerve cells in the spinal cord or brain, which have been deprived of essential nutrients. Anorexics who do not receive the proper treatment may experience more frequent and severe paralysis, which can lead to permanent muscle weakness.
Osteoporosis: Anorexics deplete their bodies of needed calcium and bone protein, reducing the density of their bones and leaving them dry and brittle. People with osteoporosis often fracture or break their delicate bones.
Anemia. Anorexics often develop an iron deficiency that can lead to anemia, which is characterized by fatigue, shortness of breath, increased infections and heart palpitations.
Kidney Failure: Permanent kidney damage and kidney failure can result from severe dehydration, vitamin deficiencies, infection and low blood pressure.
Loss of Menstrual Cycle: Women with anorexia often stop getting their menstrual cycle due to improper functioning of the ovaries. This can lead to infertility.
Hair Loss: Hair loss is a common side effect of anorexia due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, malnutrition and dehydration.
Lanugo. Lanugo is soft, downy hair that grows on the face, back and arms in an effort to keep a person warm during periods of starvation and malnutrition.
While many of the side effects of anorexia are life-threatening, most of them can be prevented with the proper anorexia treatment. A residential treatment center for eating disorders will work with the individual needs of each patient to address the side effects they are experiencing.
Through proper nutrition, a caring staff and the support of other people with eating disorders, patients at a residential treatment center for anorexia can learn to overcome their disorder, develop a healthy relationship with food and avoid the devastating consequences of anorexia before it becomes too late.