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It wouldn’t be surprising if some people were under the impression that eating disorders mostly just affect your weight. This is because of that often-portrayed relationship. However, eating disorders do not always have to do with body image or weight changes. In fact, there are also a worrying number of health problems that can arise from having an eating disorder.

This article will discuss some of the ways in which eating disorders can have detrimental and somewhat life-threatening effects on our bodies.

Eating Disorders – Do They Have a Demographic?

Eating disorders come in different patterns and health problems. Moreover, they also do not discriminate when it comes to gender, sex, or health. It is important to note that there is a genetic component when it comes to eating disorders. However, this genetic component does not mean that those who are susceptible will develop one. Rather, it only means they have a predisposition over those who do not have the gene.

Eating disorders commonly affect women. So, because of this consistent narrative in the media, other genders are not given as much recognition. It has previously been portrayed that men do not experience eating disorders, which has led to many cases not being diagnosed, despite the fact that 1 in 3 men experience an eating disorder in their lifetime.

It is also important to recognize that while there are ages that could be more susceptible to eating disorders because of social and emotional changes, eating disorders can affect anyone at any age, and so can the effects.

Mental Health and Eating Disorders

When it comes to the mental health side of eating disorders, there are less distinguishable effects between each eating disorder and more often than not, similar mental health issues will be present amongst those diagnosed with any of the eating disorders.

Some of these mental health issues can include:

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Guilt and isolation

It is not uncommon for those who are experiencing eating disorders to experience intense feelings of guilt. The mixture between not being able to control or stop an eating disorder, knowing the harm it will cause loved ones and themselves, but also dealing with the guilt of ‘betraying’ their own food rules can make for a dangerous and devastating slippery slope.

This can often see people slowly slip into isolation, as not only can those around not see the damage that is being caused, but it can relieve the person suffering from an eating disorder of having to make choices they might not want to, or see the upset they are inadvertently causing.

It is common to feel ashamed when we feel out of control, and this is only heightened when it can become really apparent from the outside-in.

Distorted thought patterns

Distorted thought patterns are actually part and parcel for all humans. In fact, they are one of the ways in which we are made perfectly imperfect. However, when it comes to those with eating disorders, often they will suffer from distorted thought patterns which are pathological, causing great strain on their mental wellbeing, and they are extremely difficult to ignore.

Distorted self-perception

It is unsurprising that distorted thought patterns can also affect how we see ourselves, and when those thought patterns are negative, it is a perfect recipe for disaster. Many people who suffer from eating disorders do not have an accurate perception of their image in their minds. This can then lead to a poor sense of self.

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Body dysmorphia (considered a form of OCD with a focus on body image) often has a direct connection with eating disorders and those who suffer from it can find themselves being pre-occupied with the self-image and the perception of how each individual body part looks, and how they look on the whole, even if they are presented with evidence which contradicts what they believe to be true. While this is not specific to weight, body dysmorphia can be found in those who also struggle with an eating disorder, and symptoms can overlap.

Difficulty concentrating

hen the body is not getting the nutrients it needs to complete even the most basic of tasks, it is not a shock when other parts of the body and mind cease to work properly. For those experiencing an eating disorder, it is common for memory and concentration to become lapse, and focusing on tasks can become a struggle. This can then be extremely detrimental to mental wellbeing in general as if you are not even able to concentrate or focus on the things you enjoy, it often can lead down a very negative and self-perpetuating road.

Depression and anxiety

Both depression and anxiety are extremely common in those that suffer from eating disorders and it is often one of those situations where one feeds into another. Not only does malnutrition affect how we feel, how we regulate moods, and how capable we feel, it also creates a pattern of isolation, which is particularly difficult to break out of without social support.

That being said, for those who are experiencing extreme psychological symptoms and are considering inpatient treatment, please visit Eden Treatment and get some advice.

It is imperative that those who are struggling do not shut themselves away so they can receive advice and treatment as soon as possible.

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Physical Implications of Eating Disorders

Aside from weight changes, eating disorders can create some devastating physical effects on health. These can vary between eating disorders, though there are symptoms commonly experienced by all those diagnosed with an eating disorder.

These include symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and sluggishness. However, different disorders will cause different specific symptoms, even though they will all be terribly detrimental to the body.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa can cause some serious effects on the body depending on the longevity of the disorder. This disorder essentially starves the body, which can have negative effects on health in as little as 24 hours, especially where there might be limited water intake.

Those who refrain from eating food can experience dizziness, thirst, feeling weak, and having trouble regulating temperature. As the disorder continues, more serious side effects will come into play, such as blood pressure problems, bone density issues, muscle wasting, and kidney damage. All of these issues are caused by a lack of nutrients in the body which puts a worrying strain on all areas of the body.

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Blood pressure problems are caused by the body not being able to break down any fuel for food, which means the body then turns to break down its own tissue. This is also true for heart conditions, which are also caused by the side effects of anorexia nervosa.

Compulsive exercising

The compulsive exercise that those who suffer from anorexia might feel compelled to take can also have a devastating effect on the body. An activity such as exercise is usually an excellent example of health maintenance. However, for a body that does not receive an adequate amount of energy or nutrients, this instead can cause irreversible damage. This damage can come along in the form of:

  • muscle weakness
  • body pain
  • feeling cold
  • experiencing poor circulation
  • problems sleeping
  • fine hair-which grows on the body in a desperate attempt to stay warm
  • menstrual problems- such as periods coming to a halt.

All the side effects of this eating disorder of course come with their own problems, such as fertility issues. Because the whole body is connected, the list becomes endless. So the problems those with anorexia face end up being exacerbated by something else.

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Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa, along with binge eating disorders, is an eating disorder that is much less well known than anorexia. However, it has equally devastating long-term consequences on the body. Short-term, bulimia could be less damaging than anorexia considering the body is still being given sustenance. However, that is quite possibly the only silver lining.

This particular eating disorder can be much more complicated for the body. How so? Because the body is still receiving food. However, it is often not of the nutritional quality which can also have negative short-term impacts. Those who suffer from bulimia eat food in large quantities in short spaces of time. This is known as a binge, and then ‘extract’ the food from their bodies by purging. This can either be through exercise, vomit, or other means such as laxatives.

The dangers of binging

Binging automatically puts a massive strain on the body short-term. How come? The body is not designed to eat extremely large amounts of food in one sitting at a fast pace. This can be extremely damaging for the throat, esophagus, stomach, and bowels as they all have to focus on working much harder to compensate for unnecessary food.

Because a lot of the food is not kept in the body, and often the food is not nutritionally dense, this can cause those who suffer from bulimia to become anemic in the short term. Being anemic can make you feel exhausted and colder than you should be. It can also cause the skin to be bruised easily, restless leg syndrome, and headaches.

Long and short term effects

Other short-term problems from bulimia include hair loss, gum disease, cavities, constipation, and sleep problems. However, there are also some extremely deadly side effects that can be caused in the short term too. These include stroke or even organ failure.

The long-term effects are seen as the short term effects heightened to the point of no return. They are also seen as at least extremely difficult to recover from. An example of this could be tooth cavities, as they would need to be replaced indefinitely, but also more serious issues such as heart problems, diabetes, brittle bones, and fertility problems.

High blood sugar

Go-to foods for binges are often high in sugar. This can cause problems in the long run with diabetes because of consistently high sugar levels. Interestingly, the relationship between diabetes and bulimia is not one-sided, as women with type 2 diabetes are much more likely to develop bulimia than those who do not.

Calcium deficiency

For those who experience a calcium deficiency when going through bulimia, there is a concern for brittle bones in the future too, however, this does not have to be a life sentence. Those who improve their nutrition during recovery can improve their bone health. However, they are still at higher risk for bone issues such as osteopenia and osteoporosis later in life.


Bulimia nervosa can certainly be more complex to spot when it comes to signs and symptoms. However, what is worrying is that it is just as deadly as anorexia. Both short term and long term side effects that come with a bulimia experience can both result in death. This is extremely important to be aware of. The harsher long term outcomes are often just associated with little to no food eating disorders instead.


Guest Writer

This post has been curated by a Longevity Live editor for the website.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.