Anorexia nervosa is the deadliest psychiatric illness to date; yet seeking out treatment continues to be a challenging effort. Unfortunately, many individuals who struggle with anorexia may suffer years with this disease before actually seeking out help for recovery.
Prolonged periods actively engaging in behaviors associated with anorexia can result in damaging consequences that affect the body and the mind.
The longer the body and brain are starved of crucial nutrients, the more eating disorder symptoms are exacerbated, such as poor body image, fear of eating, and more.
Understanding Long-Term Effects
Denial is commonly associated with anorexia, which can make it difficult for a person to connect to treatment at the first signs of the disease. In addition, a person with anorexia may attempt to continue function as normal as possible, as eating disorder behaviors are often hidden and kept secret.
This perhaps is truer for adults with anorexia, who may have several responsibilities from which they cannot imagine leaving in order to seek out treatment. This might include raising children, holding down a job, continuing school, a career, business, and more.
The dangers of prolonging treatment for anorexia are the resulting effects from long-term engagement in these eating disorder behaviors. Chronic malnutrition that results from severely restricting caloric intake can lead to brain damage and general organ failure.
Many individuals who have suffered from anorexia chronically have also experienced some degree of gastrointestinal distress, including severe bloating, constipation, indigestion, malabsorption, early satiety and more.
Chronic dehydration and malnutrition can drastically affect other vital organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. In fact, many individuals who struggle with anorexia may present with heart failure or cardiovascular complications; however, anorexia is usually the underlying cause.
Other physical side effects include bone and muscle loss, which results when the body is not receiving adequate nutrition to sustain the body. Many individuals who struggle with anorexia have some form of osteopenia or osteoporosis, creating an increased risk of breaks and fractures.
Yet other long-term effects for women include loss of normal menstruation, difficulties conceiving, infertility and more. A woman with anorexia may struggle for a prolonged period of time with getting pregnant and seek out infertility treatments without addressing the underlying cause of the eating disorder.
A person with anorexia will also experience debilitating mental health effects after a chronic battle with anorexia. This might include concurrent anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, and other behavioral health issues.
Anorexia also impacts a person in other aspects of their lives as well, including relationships, ability to connect to others socially, maintain a job successfully, sustain adequate finances, and more. Individuals who suffer from anorexia are also at increased risk of suicide, which can result without intervention and treatment.
Seeking Out Help Before Its Too Late
Many people dealing with anorexia will often present to physicians’ offices or even outpatient clinics and hospitals to “treat” symptoms related to the eating disorder. Creating greater awareness, understanding, and education among health professionals can help better assess, recognize, diagnose and treat anorexia when it presents in other forms.
As mentioned above, a person with anorexia might seek out help for infertility, fractured bones, chest pain, and more, though the underlying eating disorder is what is influencing these symptoms.
While there are many difficulties with obtaining coverage for anorexia treatment through health insurance plans, this should not be a deterring factor for seeking out professional intervention. Problematic symptoms will only persist and worsen the longer an individual engages in anorexia.
If you or someone you love has been dealing with this difficult disease, please seek out help immediately. Consider connecting with an eating disorder treatment center or specialized professional who can help you better understand what treatments are necessary for recovery and remission from anorexia. No matter how long you have struggled with this disease, there is hope for healing and recovery.
About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.
As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 8, 2018
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com