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Health Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological eating disorder having physical as well as psychological impact on the sufferer. It is a life threatening mental illness, better called as self-starvation, pushes the patient to such a restricted diet, that calorie intake becomes very low. This subsequently results in the significant low body weight and low Body Mass Index (BMI). The patients of anorexia nervosa are so obsessed regarding their own weight that it makes them unable to observe their too low bodyweight and reduced energy levels too.

Health Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

Health Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is considered as one of the commonest disorders, asthma and diabetes. It is particularly more common in teenagers, young women and those who are exceptionally health conscious. Though anorexia nervosa is not associated with any sex, race, age, ethnic origin and can affect anyone, it is more commonly seen in adolescence and young adult age and females are more prone to this disorder. The ratio between male and female victims is almost 1:8.

There are three key points that must be present to define a case of anorexia nervosa

  1. Weight loss: A considerable amount of weight is lost in a short period of time in the patient. A person with anorexia nervosa appears malnourished and shows muscle wasting. They are even not capable to maintain their weight.
  2. Fear of weight gain: A patient of anorexia nervosa has intense fear of weight gain if they eat in a normal manner. So they avoid eating so that they do not become fat.
  3. Distorted perception of self-body image: All the attention of these patients is only towards body thinning methods. They are so obsessed that they feel their worth merely because of their thin look. Even being underweight and dangerously thin they image themselves fat and overweight.

Above described characteristic features of Anorexia Nervosa are so intense that induces patients to extended level of restricted diet, rigorous exercise and other physical activities that promote weight loss. This leads to cognitive and emotional dysfunction along with physical and psychological morbidity.

What Happens If You Have Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa not only leads to thin emaciated body but also results in many forms of other ailments. Sufferers of anorexia nervosa show multiple symptoms of physical, psychosocial and behavioral disturbances or a combination of all of them.

Characteristic feature off anorexia nervosa is low body weight or low body mass index (BMI). Patients may weigh less than 85% what is considered normal for its age and height perspective. There are frequent and rapid changes in weight in terms of loss.

  • Intense fear of gaining weight. They are very conscious about their body image.
  • Cold intolerance is present. The extremities are often cold. Patients complain of feeling cold even in warm weather.
  • Skin become much drier.
  • Obsession regarding fat and calorie intake.
  • Lack of energy, lethargy and show no interest in proceedings.
  • Loss or disturbance in menstrual periods in females.
  • Decreased libido in males.
  • New emergence of fine hair on all over the body and face.
  • Thinning of hair or baldness.
  • Skin become pale, eyes are sunken with a malnourished appearance.
  • Disturbed sleep and disturbed digestion. Bloating and constipation is often present.
  • Dizziness and fatigue. Sometimes syncope.
  • Psychologically disturbed, anxious and irritated.
  • Obsessive behavior regarding eating food and self-image or body weight.
  • Confused stature, depression, cognitive behavioral disturbances.
  • Strict pattern or rule for meals.
  • Low self-esteem no involvement in social activities. Patient prefers to be alone and isolated.
  • Excessive exercise and physical activities.
  • Misuse of laxatives, enemas, appetite suppressants etc.
  • Self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
  • Abnormal blood counts and elevated liver enzymes are the significant signs of anorexia nervosa.

Risks of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa results in a variety of somatic complications along with low body weight. This is a life threatening disorder as complications are fatal. Due to malnourishment and uncontrolled eating or purging, there is a risk of organ damage. If it remains untreated for a long time other serious health issues can develop.

These complications arise due to the risk of –

  • Compromised immunity
  • Iron and other nutritional deficiencies
  • Digestive tract disorders
  • Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Cardiac problems
  • Poor glycemic control, onset of diabetes and diabetic complications
  • Risk of impotence in male and infertility in females
  • Disturbed menstrual cycle
  • Kidney failure
  • High mortality rate

Recovery in Anorexia Nervosa

Recovery from anorexia nervosa, the multifaceted disease, depends upon its early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If treatment is started at an early stage, patients show significant improvement with almost no severe health problems. As the disease progresses and multi-organ complications begin, the chances of total recovery begins to reduce.


  1. Mayo Clinic – Anorexia Nervosa: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anorexia-nervosa/symptoms-causes/syc-20353591
  2. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) – Anorexia Nervosa: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/anorexia
  3. WebMD – Anorexia Nervosa: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/anorexia-nervosa/understanding-anorexia-nervosa-treatment
  4. MedlinePlus – Anorexia Nervosa: https://medlineplus.gov/anorexianervosa.html
  5. Psychology Today – Anorexia Nervosa: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/anorexia-nervosa

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 20, 2023

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