Anorexia nervosa, commonly known as anorexia, is an eating disorder that causes people to eat unhealthy foods and use unsafe methods to lose weight. The long-term effects of the disorder can be brutal on an individual’s health. It severely affects the body and results in death sometimes. It is essential to recognize the symptoms of anorexia nervosa and get it treated.
Your weight influences how you see and feel about yourself. However, the lean body is not the only reason people try to shed some extra pounds. From better sleep to improved mental health, there are dozens of reasons to embark on a weight-loss journey.
Globally, there are over 1 billion overweight adults, and the numbers are growing rapidly. As per the CDC, at least half of the Americans think they are overweight and wish to lose weight. They also include individuals who are fit and do not require to follow a weight-loss plan.
However, some people develop unhealthy food habits only because they think they are overweight or want to avoid gaining weight. This may sound normal, but experts believe it is a serious disorder. Called anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder causes you to lose interest in food.
Anorexia makes you obsessive about losing weight quickly. This results in you eating low-calorie foods and having an excessive fear of gaining weight.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
The common known cause behind the disorder is people having a negative body image. Apart from that, pressure from society to look lean and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can result in anorexia.
Apart from that, genetics and hormones may also have a role in the development of anorexia. It is believed that serotonin, a chemical produced in the brain, affects one’s ability to develop the eating disorder.
Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
People with the disorder try different methods and exercise excessively. Some individuals also use diuretics and vomiting to get rid of calories. Some of the known symptoms of anorexia involve:
- Yellow and blotchy skin
- Thin hair or hair fall
- Low blood pressure
- Three cycles without a period
In addition, you notice changes in your behavior. For example:
- You do not accept that you are hungry
- You avoid social gatherings just to avoid food
- You start using diet pills and laxatives
- You are always in a depressed mood
Long-Term Effects of Anorexia
Mental health experts believe the eating disorder should be taken seriously as it affects almost all parts of the body. Its effects may range from poor general health and minor infections to severe medical complications.
In more severe cases, the long-term effects of anorexia may lead to death. The first recognized case of death due to the anorexia was of Karen Carpenter. The American singer and drummer died in 1983 from heart failure. After investigation, it was found that she suffered from anorexia nervosa.
Here are some other long-term effects of anorexia:
- Anxiety and Depression
The eating disorder affects people of all ages. Children with anorexia can develop mental disorders like anxiety and depression. These mental conditions may promote suicidal behavior in sufferers.
As per a report by Time magazine, researchers have found that the risks of suicide among women with anorexia could be 57 times the rate of other women.
- Heart Disease
Severe anorexia nervosa may result in heart disease, which further leads to death. The lack of appetite slows down the heart rhythms. Usually, a healthy adult’s resting rate is between 60 and 100 beats a minute. In the case of anorexia, it can be below 60 beats per minute. The condition is called Bradycardia. With the drop in heart rate, the blood flow in the body is reduced, and blood pressure is dropped to a dangerous rate.
In the case of anorexia, the body does not receive essential minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphate, and magnesium, which create a conditional called Electrolyte Imbalance. Various kinds of minerals supply the required currents to the body for maintaining a normal heartbeat. The imbalanced electrolytes due to the eating disorder can lead to a life-endangering condition.
- Weak and Brittle Bones
Anorexia may have serious effects on bone health. Many people with the eating disorder experience Osteopenia, a medical condition related to loss of calcium in bones. Some sufferers of anorexia may also have Osteoporosis, a loss of bone density.
Children with anorexia find it difficult to develop strong bones. Some kids, especially boys, may also suffer from stunted growth.
As per the National Eating Disorders Association, the loss in bone health can be noticed about six months after anorexia begins.
- Seizures and Other Neurological Problems
If left untreated for a long time, anorexia can take a toll on one’s mental health. In severe cases, the disorder leads to nerve damage and affects different parts of the brain. Thus, sufferers may experience conditions like seizures, numbness, and disordered thinking.
The brain of people with anorexia goes through structural changes, some of which discontinue when sufferers develop healthy food habits while others may cause permanent damage.
Low blood sugar is a common cause of type 1 diabetes among young adults. People with anorexia deliberately reduce the amount of insulin in their routine to lose weight. The condition is called Diabulimia, which, according to health experts, can be dangerous.
How to Treat Anorexia
Anorexia nervosa can be diagnosed and treated to limit its consequences. Examining blood pressure and heart rate is a common method to recognize the symptoms of the eating disorder. Apart from that, some other ways to identify the disorder are:
- Restricted food intake (even when not required)
- Fear of weight gain
- Negative thoughts about body image
Although there is no cure for anorexia, its effects can be limited with the help of therapy, medication, and hospitalization in severe cases.
In the End
Anorexia is a dangerous, deadly eating disorder that cannot be ignored. Looking out for its symptoms, diagnosing it timely, and using effective treatment methods may help in speedy recovery. If you find your loved one obsessing about weight loss, seek professional help.