11 serious consequences of anorexia in your life


In this article, I will present to you the 11 serious consequences of anorexia, if you do not consult a specialist when the disease starts to appear.

Table of contents

Anorexia is an eating disorder (TCA) that affects young women between the ages of 15 and 25 in 90% of cases.

Undernourishment and purgative behaviors used to lose weight lead to somatic complications as well as psychological, neurological, and social repercussions.

Anorexia is a disease with serious consequences, the consequences of which are sometimes dramatic.

Anorexia (src: pentamedica)

The physical and psychological consequences of anorexia

The main aggravation of the disease is malnutrition, which leads to a loss of fat and muscle mass, which induces complications in the muscles, skin, hormones, and bones. The majority of the major functions are impacted and this causes psychic disturbances.

Thus, the consequences of anorexia are as follows:

Consequence n°1: A drop in body temperature

The various purgative compensatory behaviors and the stopping of food lead to fat-melting, responsible for a drop in body temperature. As a result, an anorexic person is often very cold all the time.

Carbohydrates, which are the main source of energy and which allow the body to function, are no longer ingested in sufficient quantity. Consequently, the body exploits the fat reserves in its possession: weight loss takes place and the layer of fat essential to the natural regulation of the body's temperature melts.

Functional hypothyroidism then sets in to reduce the expenditure of body energy, and slow down the weight loss of people affected by the disease. This is what will cause the lowering of the internal temperature (hypothermia) and therefore this symptom of anorexia is the chilliness.

A fine down, the lanugo appears on the whole body, whose objective is to help fight against the cold.

Hypothyroidism is a consequence of anorexia and can be treated here without treatment: renutrition increases the hormonal level within three to four weeks, promoting the disappearance of symptoms.

Consequence n°2: disruption of the menstrual cycle

Amenorrhea is a direct consequence of anorexia: it is an interruption of menstruation for at least three cycles (in the case of regular menstruation already installed).

Protein deficiencies caused by malnutrition, are associated with the loss of fatty tissue, leading to a decrease in the hormonal secretion responsible for the menstrual cycle.

This is called functional hypothalamic anovulation. Under contraceptives, amenorrhea is masked: the rules of deprivation are triggered by hormones.

Anorexia nervosa, through deficiencies, fat-melting, and the interruption of hormonal cycles, strongly promotes bone demineralization and osteoporosis.

This is also the most common complication. This degradation increases the risk of so-called abnormal fractures, following a shock or a minor fall. The longer the disease lasts, the more osteoporosis sets in and gets worse.

Good to know: By resuming a healthy diet, with a BMI that goes up to around 18 - 18.5 kg / m2, the periods can return, but for this, the fat mass must also be sufficiently developed. The chances of getting pregnant are minimal when the body mass index (BMI) is below 17 kg/m2.

Consequence n°3: the development of libido disorders

The consequences of anorexia on hormonal imbalance will have an impact beyond menstruation. Indeed, the drop in hormone levels has repercussions on sexual desire. Vaginal dryness is common, making intercourse painful.

Anorgasmic disorders are possible. Sexual fulfillment is therefore greatly hampered.

The person suffering from this eating disorder is in constant search of control, this goes against sexuality, because intimacy requires being in a form of vulnerability and knowing how to let go, and consequently lose control.

Revealing oneself is difficult to envisage. The dissatisfaction reflected by the image of the deformed body deeply disturbs self-esteem and makes nudity in front of the other very painful.

Therefore, sexuality is often avoided, so as not to reveal one's body. However, when relationships do take place, it is usually done in the dark or by keeping clothes on, to hide certain parts and show very little of yourself.

In anorexic men, bigorexia (addiction to physical activity) induces erectile dysfunction or difficulty in ejaculating.

Consequence n°4: a devaluation of the self-image

Satisfaction with body image influences overall self-esteem. Even when the intellectual investment is present (allowing an excellent school or professional adaptation) the image of the body remains at the center of the concerns of the individual.

Body image is defined by two components: the perception we have of it, and the feelings we have about it.

In the case of the first component, it is, in particular, the ability to correctly assess body proportions: this ability is distorted in the sick person (they overestimate their figure by seeing themselves larger than they are), which will reinforce dissatisfaction with the body.

Image disorders are linked to body dissatisfaction and negative beliefs about appearance, which maintain feelings of shame, guilt, and sadness.

Dissatisfaction arises from the gap that the person feels with regard to his physical requirements: it is about the discrepancy between the real body and the dreamed body, and the more the idealized body moves away from the real body, the more the dissatisfaction is high, resulting in intense emotional distress.

The self-image is distorted and devalued, aggravating the lack of self-esteem, a feeling that is reinforced over time spent in the presence of the disease.

Consequence n°5: withdrawal

On the psychological level, the individual is prey to rituals and his attitudes are rigid. Obsessive-compulsive traits, often centered around food, give rise to obsessive preoccupations.

The mood is impacted: there is hypermobility and even a form of impulsiveness that can lead to aggressive behavior, towards others or towards oneself. Scarification in anorexia is notably common.

Anxiety and sleep disorders are also often present as well as depression, which are sometimes added to dark thoughts. Social life is impoverished, as all the person's activity and attention are focused on body control and weight loss.

Withdrawing into oneself distances oneself from everything, going so far as to create a break from school or work. Confinement in the disorder is reinforced, the entourage not understanding the situation of denial in which the anorexic person evolves.

Social phobia sometimes emerges. Disinterest imprisons him, everything revolves only around hunger and weight.

Consequence n°6: digestive disorders

Functional digestive disorders are a frequent consequence of anorexia.

The most common are:

  • the constipation
  • slowing of gastric emptying
  • gastroesophageal reflux.

In anorexic patients suffering from bulimia attacks followed by vomiting, acid reflux is much more present. Purgative practices will alter the digestive mucous membranes: ulcerations are possible as well as gastrointestinal rupture.

Dental problems also appear (erosion of the enamel, cavities, loosening of the teeth, etc.).

Finally, digestion is greatly disturbed with nausea, pain, burning, intestinal gas, and bloating. The belly is sometimes swollen.

The use of irritating laxatives causes painful diarrhea and also induces complications: for example, intestinal atony causing dehydration and edema.

Does anorexia affect brain function?

Yes, anorexia is responsible for neurological and cognitive consequences. By experiencing undernourishment, the brain is affected in all of its executive functions.

Consequence n°7: concentration disorders

Deprived of micronutrients, the brain functions more slowly and experiences cognitive difficulties, it is less efficient. His ability to concentrate is disturbed.

Memory problems and attention disorders are frequent, even if the person overinvests intellectually in an activity, such as homework or work. This requires a lot of energy and upsets his mood, which becomes changeable.

Consequence n°8: system malfunction

With the onset of the disorder, the body modifies some of its natural functions: appetite regulation and the cerebral reward system.

The endorphin, which is normally released in the face of tempting foods, is now activated during the phases of restriction, fasting, and sports practice.

This dysfunction reinforces these deleterious practices by calling them and perpetuating them, reinforcing the individual in his need for body control and the quest for leanness.

Consequence n°9: cognitive distortions

The disproportionate invasion of thought by food and obsessive preoccupations around body image transform body perception: we speak of cognitive distortion.

People, often cachectic, are persuaded to be too fat. False beliefs accompany distortions, especially about the direct consequences of food on the body.

From a neuropsychological perspective, assessments explain this as excessive attention to detail, decreased mental flexibility, difficulty synthesizing information, and impaired self-perception and emotional expression.

Consequence n°10: the risks of the disease to the pregnant woman and her child

The disease also affects pregnancy. Pregnancy is possible, although fertility usually decreases by 90%. This will be said to be at risk, with harmful consequences for the mother as well as for her child.

When anorexia occurs early, at the start of pregnancy, the occurrence of miscarriage is increased.

The complications and risks associated with anorexia for the mother are numerous:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased stress and depression
  • Blackouts
  • Anemia
  • low blood pressure
  • Asthenia
  • Death during childbirth.

The fetus and the child meanwhile will undergo:

  • growth retardation,
  • Hypertrophy
  • Internal and external neonatal malformations
  • A premature birth
  • Very low birth weight
  • Later weight loss, sometimes with feeding difficulties
  • Metabolic disorders (high blood pressure, diabetes).

After childbirth, postpartum depression is very intense, as are fatigue and sleep disturbances.

The physiological consequences of malnutrition do not help to maintain emotional balance. People with an eating disorder are more likely to develop restrictive behaviors toward their children, who will be more likely to suffer from an eating disorder as they age.

Consequence n°11: Mortality, the ultimate consequence of anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is fatal: it is the psychiatric illness causing the most deaths.

When the body has consumed all the fat and muscle, it starts attacking the organs to hold on. At an advanced stage, the liver and kidneys will break down and cause kidney damage and liver dysfunction.

Undernourishment, sometimes associated with purgative behaviors, causes dramatic situations where the vital prognosis of the person is engaged.

Patients can die:

  • Extremely undernourished (when body mass index is less than 10)
  • From a serious somatic complication of heart rhythm
  • Suicide: the risk of suicide in people with anorexia is high.

Finally, hydroelectrolyte disorders (imbalance in the ratios between sodium, calcium, magnesium, and water in the body) are a complication of anorexia which can also lead to the death of the person. Those who practice compensatory behaviors are also more at risk.

Hypokalemia is the most dangerous electrolyte disorder for patients. When serum potassium drops below 2.5 mmol/L then severe consequences can occur in terms of heart rate. The heart is disturbed, weakened, and risks stopping at any moment.

Bottom line

Anorexia has many consequences on a person's quality of life. They can be psychological, physical, social, or even neurological.

When anorexia is left untreated, this eating disorder leads to death.

When the vital risk is high, hospitalization is imperative, whether for reasons related to somatic complications of suicidal risk.

However, if the management of the disease is early then recovery will be favored and will prevent progression to chronic anorexia (beyond five years). Thus, the occurrence of complications is reduced, as well as relapses.

Recovery from this disorder is possible. Two-thirds of the patients are treated after five years of evolution. If you think you are suffering from it, do not wait to talk about it with a trusted loved one, a mutual aid association, or a health professional.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative, I have no authority to make a diagnosis or recommend treatment. I invite you to visit a psychologist to treat your particular case.