Anorexia is one of the most common eating disorders. People with anorexia greatly struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, can be dangerously underweight, and may be nutrient deficient. While the disorder is more common among women, it can affect anyone. Being diagnosed with anorexia involves meeting three criteria: restricted eating to the point that you reach an unhealthy weight, an intense psychological block against gaining weight, and a faulty mental perception of the body. Learn about anorexia treatment programs by contacting The Willows at Red Oak Recovery® at 855.773.0614.
What Are the Physical Effects of Anorexia?
People typically think of anorexia as a physically-noticeable ailment. Protruding bones, unhealthy thinness, and sallow skin may be the first mental images that come to mind. But having anorexia is about more than just physical appearance. The extreme weight loss associated with the condition brings myriad other physical challenges. The most common physical effects of anorexia are below.
People with anorexia are not just underweight. They have starved themselves of the nutrients their body needs for proper functioning. The body essentially enters a state of near-starvation, which lowers blood pressure. People in this state become less tolerant to cold weather and may develop a bluish tint in their fingers and ears. Hair and nails are often thin and weakened as well.
It makes sense that an eating disorder would physically impact the digestive system. Restricted food intake for an extended period of time causes bloating and stomach pain. The body digests food more slowly than usual, resulting in constipation or irregular bowel movements.
Endocrine System Effects
Anorexia often makes peoples’ bodies hypoglycemic, which means they have incredibly low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia causes headaches, mood changes, and seizures in extreme circumstances. When hypoglycemia goes unchecked, it can even lead to death from liver failure.
Nervous System Effects
Research continues to accumulate linking anorexia to disruptions in brain functioning. The brain more or less begins to decay when it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. This can result in memory loss, cognitive deficits, and an inability to concentrate.
Common Anorexia Side Effects
The anorexia side effects can be wide-ranging as it truly impacts the entire body. In addition to four of the most common physical effects of anorexia listed in the previous section, it also causes skeletal and cardiovascular systems problems. One alarming anorexia side effect is the prevalence of osteoporosis or osteopenia among people with the disorder. Fractures also become more common as bone structure weakens.
Anorexia lowers blood pressure. Its dermatological impact may be visually more apparent, but its effects on the heart are considerably more dangerous. An abnormally slow heartbeat means the heart will weaken and shrink over time, which creates anorexia side effects such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Anorexia Treatment Options
Anorexia is a severe disorder. People struggling with it ought to seek professional help as soon as possible. In some cases, anorexia treatment begins with hospitalization or an inpatient stay. The body needs to be stabilized and built back up. This process takes time. In fact, a body that has been starved for months can’t immediately return to a normal diet. The early days of recovering from anorexia are best lived under constant medical supervision until people achieve physical stability.
The physical effects of anorexia may be fixed in the popular imagination, but the treatment also targets the mental aspects of the disorder. In many ways, the physical manifestations of anorexia may be due to mental issues. Anorexia treatment thus involves therapy that targets disordered eating, negative self-beliefs, and patterns of behavior that reinforce the disorder. Thankfully, the physical effects of anorexia are completely reversible for people who enter treatment in a timely manner.
Seek Treatment at The Willows at Red Oak Recovery® Today
At The Willows at Red Oak Recovery®, we’re committed to helping our clients to understand the effects of disordered eating. To that end, we work with clients as they manage their health through treatments such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy
- Yoga therapy
Don’t wait another day to find treatment. Access support for disordered eating by calling The Willows at Red Oak Recovery® today at 855.773.0614.