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What are the Health Risks of Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious medical condition that can affect every organ system of the body. The most serious health risk of anorexia is increased mortality. Other health risks associated with anorexia are also very serious and may require treatment to achieve lasting recovery.

Short-Term Health Risks of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia can lead to several short-term and long-term effects. Short-term health risks include weight loss, gastrointestinal complaints, fatigue, dehydration, and hair loss, among others.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is the most common health risk associated with anorexia nervosa. Severe weight loss can set off a series of other serious health risks that can become life threatening.

Gastrointestinal complaints

Someone suffering from anorexia may experience nausea, stomach pain, bloating, vomiting, constipation, and dizziness.

Fatigue

Fatigue is often seen in people with anorexia as a result of decreased intake of food and nutritional deficiencies. After a while this can lead to extreme exhaustion.

Hair Loss

Hair loss is another health risk associated with anorexia. When people with anorexia don’t get proper nutrition, their hair becomes thinner.

Dehydration

Individuals with anorexia may experience dehydration associated with restrictive eating– even if they are drinking water. This occurs because a large percentage of dietary water comes from food. Dehydration can become a serious health risk if not treated.

Long-Term Health Risks of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a very serious medical condition. If untreated, those who are suffering from this eating disorder may experience long-term health risks. Starting treatment right away for anorexia is essential in finding recovery and decreasing the odds of these associated health risks.

Osteoporosis

Anorexia is associated with bone health issues. This can include osteopenia, fractures, osteoporosis, and more. The longer a person lives with anorexia, the more severe these problems will be. Additionally, some bone loss stemming from anorexia can be irreversible.1
[1] https://www.acute.org/blog/orthopedic-complications-anorexia-nervosa

Seizures

Another serious long-term health risk associated with anorexia is seizures. These can occur in people with bulimia as well as those with anorexia. Loss of consciousness, incontinence, and muscle spasms can also occur. 2
[2] F.E.A.S.T.: Seizures

Anemia

People with anorexia often have a low level of red blood cells, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and rapid heart rate−all signs of anemia.

Infertility

Because of the toll an eating disorder can take on the body, infertility can occur in girls and women who have experienced severe anorexia.3
[3] Hoffman, E. R., Zerwas, S. C., and Bulik, C. M. (2011). Reproductive Issues in anorexia nervosa. Expert Reviews of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 6(4), 403-414.

Death

Complications from anorexia nervosa can be serious and can cause death. In fact, anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates compared to other mental health conditions, second only to opioid overdose.

Anorexia Can be a Deadly Illness

Anorexia nervosa is an illness with very serious psychological and medical complications. With a mortality rate of about 10%, anorexia deaths are due to starvation, cardiovascular complications, and suicide.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), "eating disorders are among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose."4 ANAD also reports that there are more than 10,000 deaths each year associated with eating disorders.

[4] National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: Eating Disorder Statistics

Seek Help Before Anorexia Health Risks Become Life Threatening

If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, we urge you to seek help immediately. Professional help for anorexia offers individuals the best chance for a full and complete recovery.

If you or a loved one needs help for an eating disorder, please call us at 877-825-8584 to schedule a free confidential consultation with an Eating Recovery Center master’s-level clinician.

Anorexia FAQ/More Information

What is anorexia nervosa?

Although research about anorexia nervosa is ongoing, there is a lot you can learn about this eating disorder to understand how to get help for yourself or how to help a loved one.

Learn more about anorexia, including the causes, symptoms and available treatment options.

What causes anorexia?

As with other eating disorders, anorexia has no single cause. However, research suggests that eating disorders stem from a variety of genetic, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

Learn more about the factors that contribute to anorexia here.

What are the symptoms of anorexia?

Anorexia is one of the deadliest mental illnesses. It is crucial to understand the warning signs and symptoms of this complex condition.

Learn about the signs and symptoms of anorexia here.

What are the health risks associated with anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a serious and sometimes fatal condition that can affect nearly every system of the body. There are many short-term and long-term health risks associated with anorexia nervosa.

Learn about anorexia health risks today.

How is anorexia treated?

Anorexia treatment is personalized, depending on each patient’s needs. Medical stabilization, psychiatric stabilization, nutritional rehabilitation, and weight restoration (when appropriate) are all considered when determining a patient’s treatment plan.

Learn more about anorexia treatment options here.

What are the facts about anorexia?

A devastating illness that often requires intensive treatment, anorexia takes the lives of far too many people each year.

Discover anorexia facts and statistics here.

Do I have anorexia?

If you or a loved one struggle with some of the symptoms described here, we can help you explore anorexia treatment options.

Take our anorexia self-assessment quiz today.

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