Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How Dangerous Are Eating Disorders

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Effects Of Eating Disorders: Why Eating Disorders Are Dangerous

Eating disorders are serious psychiatric conditions characterized by high rates of comorbidity, relapse, chronicity, and mortality. 

The two main eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a dangerously low body weight and body image distortions with an obsessive fear of weight gain.

Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand is characterised by recurrent episodes of binge eating in combination with inappropriate compensatory behaviours and an overvaluation with weight and shape. 

Both disorders have devastating and potentially life-threatening consequences. 

In fact, eating disorders are associated with the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric disorder and are associated with a 57-fold increase in suicidality relative to the general population. 

Lets take a closer look at the effects of both of these eating disorders and why they are so dangerous. 

Table of Contents

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation and bloatedness 
  • Dizziness
  • Amenorrhoea, low sexual drive, and infertility 
  • Poor sleep regime 
  • Low concentration of leutenising hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, and oestradiol
  • Low T3 and T4 in low-normal range, normal concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone 
  • Mild increase in plasma cortisol 
  • Raised growth hormonal concentration
  • Severe hypoglycaemia
  • Low leptin 



  • Decreased colonic motility
  • Acute gastric dilatation


Other Metabolic Abnormalities

 Other Abnormalities

The Different Causes Of Eating Disorders

Steven Gans, MD

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

When a person gets sick, it’s natural to want to understand why. With eating disorders, which are associated with many myths and negative stereotypes, the question of causation can be especially confusing.

The culture at large commonly blames eating disorders on oversimplified explanations, such as the medias promotion of unrealistically slender models or on bad parenting. Even some health professionals buy into these explanations.

But research shows that longtime scapegoatsdo not cause eating disorders, at least not in any simple, straightforward manner.

While growing up in a dysfunctional home could increase the risk for a number of psychological problems, including eating disorders, it does not condemn a child to an eating disorder or any other psychological disorder.

Scientists cant say for sure what exactly causes an eating disorder or predict who will develop an eating disorder. In general, most experts agree that eating disorders are complicated illnesses that stem not from a single cause but from a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. There are many different pathways to the development of an eating disorder from binge eating disorder to anorexia nervosa to bulimia nervosa.

How Is Anorexia Diagnosed

Diseases & Disorders: Anorexia and Bulimia: Dangerous ...

Identifying anorexia can be challenging. Secrecy, shame, and denial are characteristics of the disorder. As a result, the illness can go undetected for long periods of time.

If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose anorexia, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests, such as tests, to rule out physical illness as the cause of the weight loss, as well as to evaluate the effects of the weight loss on the body’s organs.

If no physical illness is found, the person might be referred to a psychiatrist or , health care professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists may use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an eating disorder.

Can Anorexia Be Prevented

Although it might not be possible to prevent all cases of anorexia, it is helpful to begin treatment in people as soon as they begin to have symptoms. In addition, teaching and encouraging healthy eating habits and realistic attitudes about food and body image also might be helpful in preventing the development or worsening of eating disorders.

Major Kinds Of Eating Disorders

There are three main eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is perhaps the most recognizable eating disorder. It may begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and women are more affected by this condition than men.

It involves a strongly held misperception about a persons own weight and body image. For example, people with anorexia may be dangerous underweight for their age and height, and yet they persist in the belief that they are fat and disgusting. People suffering from anorexia obsessively monitor their weight and tend to place unreasonable restrictions on their diet.

Common symptoms for this condition include:

  • being severely underweight
  • extreme denial of being underweight
  • having a distorted body image
  • limiting eating patterns
  • an irrational fear of gaining any amount of weight
  • an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight
  • Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa shares some similarities with anorexia as both of these conditions develop during adolescence or early adulthood. This condition is characterized by a binge-and-purge pattern: eating unusually large amounts of food in short bursts, followed by throwing it up. The food consumed during a binge is usually the bad foods they typically avoid when on a diet.

Laxatives, diuretics, and enemas may also be used to purge the binged foods. Or, bulimia sufferers may fast and engage in extensive exercise in order to counteract effects of the binge episode.

  • Binge Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder Statistics For Children And Adolescents

  • Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
  • 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.
  • According to Time magazine, 80% of all children have been on a diet by the time they’ve reached fourth grade.
  • 86% of people with eating disorders report onset of an eating disorder by age 20.
  • 10% report onset at ten years or younger.

What Are The Risks Associated With Disordered Eating And Dieting

The risks associated with disordered eating are severe. People with disordered eating may experience: A clinical eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder or otherspecified feeding and eating disorders Osteoporosis or osteopenia: a reduction in bone density caused by a specific nutritional deficiency Fatigue and poor sleep quality Gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and/or diarrhoea Headaches Feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem Depressive or anxious symptoms and behaviours Nutritional and metabolic problems

/11how To Treat These Eating Disorders

HOW TO TREAT THESE EATING DISORDERS: For all the three eating disorders, the first thing to do is to change the behaviour of the person suffering from it. This is mostly done through methods like cognitive behavioural therapy paired with regular physician and nutritionists’ care. When this doesnt work, the patients are monitored 24 hours and reintroduced to normal eating.

How Do I Know If I Have An Ed

Here are some signs linked to eating disorders: 

  • Intense fear of gaining weight; 
  • Obsession with dieting or your weight; 
  • Being overly picky with the food you are eating; 
  • Hiding or getting rid of food; 
  • Losing an unhealthy amount of weight; 
  • Skipping meals; 
  • Loss of interest in your hobbies and friends; 
  • Difficulty sleeping or over sleeping. 

The Starvation Effect 


Did you know, your body naturally protects you from starvation? People who aren’t getting enough to eat tend to think more about food. In other words, the less you eat, the more you obsess over it. 


What are the differences between healthy eating and disordered eating? 


We live in a world that constantly bombards us with images and videos telling us how we should look, what we should wear and how we should act. As a result, we tend to care about our appearance and that isn’t a bad thing. It can be fun to play around with the kind of clothes you wear, hair products, body art, makeup or jewellery. However, this becomes unhealthy when it takes control of our lives and starts to impact our thoughts about ourselves, our feelings, our body and our relationships. Disordered eating often begins by simple dieting and can quickly spiral out of control and take over our lives, with serious consequences. Untreated eating disorders may also cause death. Disordered eating often leads to more serious EDs. It’s important to get help if you have serious concerns about weight along with eating disorder symptoms.

How Are Eating Disorders Diagnosed

Health care providers and mental health professionals diagnose eating disorders based on history, symptoms, thought patterns, eating behaviors, and an exam.

The doctor will check weight and height and compare these to previous measurements on growth charts. The doctor may order tests to see if there is another reason for the eating problems and to check for problems caused by the eating disorder.

More Risks And Complications

The Dangers of Untreated Eating Disorders

amenorrheadue to decreased estrogen production, which causes females to cease ovulation and menstruation anemiaa blood disorder characterized by either a decrease in the number of red cells, or a reduction in hemoglobin; the bodys ability to carry oxygen from the lungs to its tissues is reduced; often caused by an iron deficiency bingeingan effect of starvation bruising decreased testicular functionsome studies reveal a decrease in testosterone and certain male hormones dental decay and discoloration dry skin; brittle hair and nails edemawater retention, most commonly in the ankles and feet endocrine abnormalities high cholesterolan effect of starvation, not necessarily warranting a low cholesterol diet hyperactivity increased risk of osteoporosisbones lose density and fracture easily insomnia ketosisthe excessive accumulation of ketone bodies in the blood and urine, which is indicative of the body digesting its fat stores as a sole source of energy kidney damage/failureusually due to dehydration; may be worsened by the use of diuretics lanugothe growth of fine hair on the body, which is the bodys attempt to keep itself warm when fat stores are depleted liver damagea condition that is usually irreparable loss of hair on the head low blood pressure

Medical Dangers Of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa has a multitude of medical complications ranging from mild to severe. In fact, it is believed that 5-20% of anorexics die, usually from complications associated with self-starvation, such as: heart, kidney, or multiple organ failure, or illnesses like pneumonia, which may be due to an inability to fight infectionall ultimately due to the anorexia. Studies show that the longer one has anorexia, the higher the mortality rate. Someone who has been anorexic for five years has about a 5% chance of mortality, but the rate increases to 18% in individuals who suffer chronically for 30 years .

Lets take a closer look at some of the complications that can arise during the course of anorexia:

Teens Participating In The Summer Wellness Programs

Palo Alto Medical Foundation

At least 30 million U.S. people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder. There are different types of eating disorders with many different warning signs.

If you fall into any of these descriptions for an eating disorder, dont hesitate to contact your doctor or a counselor. If you have friends who might have an eating disorder, please encourage them to seek help you may save a life.

Dieting And The Diet Cycle

Dieting is one of thestrongest predictors forthe development of aneating disorder.Weight loss and faddiets do not take people’s individual requirements intoconsideration andcan result in a personfeeling hungry,experiencing lowmoods, lacking inenergy levels anddeveloping poor mentaland physical health.

The diet cycle explainshow many eatingdisorders can developand are maintained.


The dieter limits the amount of food or type of food eaten.


When food intake is restricted, the body responds both physically and mentally. The metabolism slows downto conserve energy, appetite increases and the craving for the restricted foods increases. At this stage, peoplemay feel deprived, irritable and fatigued.

Break diet rule:

The diet rules are almost inevitably broken, with the body wanting and needing the food that has beenrestricted. Overeating can often follow as dieters think, Ive broken my diet, so I may as well have the lot.


When breaking the diet rule, people are often left with feelings such as guilt, low self-esteem and negativebody image. People may feel that they have failed and that they lack willpower.

Unhappy with weight or shape:

With these feelings comes a resolve to do better. People are often led back to the diet or restriction, and the diet cycle begins again.

Risk Factors For Specific Eating Disorders

Risk factor research focuses on identifying traits or experiences that precede the development of a specific disorder . For a risk factor to be shown as a causal factor, the risk factor must be shown to come before the development of the eating disorder. It also must be capable of being manipulated to prevent the occurrence of the disorder. For example, smoking is a causal risk factor for lung cancer; it comes before the development of the disease, and not smoking reduces ones risk of developing lung cancer.

Because eating disorders are relatively rare and diverse disorders, it is difficult and expensive to perform the kinds of large and long-term studies needed to better assess risk factors.

To date, there is limited risk factor research that has successfully demonstrated causality, but a 2015 research study found these causal risk factors for eating disorders.

How Dangerous Are Eating Disorders

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

South Florida Drug Rehab » How Dangerous Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are the most life threatening type of mental health disorder. They kill more people due to side effects and suicide, than other mental illnesses. A study from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports the devastating truth that between five and ten percent of those who struggle with anorexia nervosa after as few as ten years. Even if someone suffering from an eating disorder lives for more than ten years, they still are at risk of death because anywhere from eighteen to twenty percent of people suffering from an eating disorder succumb to the disease meet their death after twenty years. Some other people who suffer from the disease can and do die from suicide rather than side effects of their disorder.



According to American Psychiatric Association Eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight.


Anorexia Athletica Or Compulsive Exercising

Health professionals, the media, and teachers are often heard extolling the virtues of exercise, and its seen as an ideal component of a healthy lifestyle, but some people who start exercising eventually develop a very unhealthy relationship with it. People who suffer from anorexia athletica will exhibit signs of body dysmorphia and low self-esteem. When someone is stressed or anxious, they may turn to exercise to gain some control over their life. In severe cases, that person may develop anorexia athletica, or an addiction to exercise.

The American Council on Exercise shares that the concept of anorexia athletica was first noticed in the 1970s by a man named Dr. William Glasser. Through his work with runners, he noticed that some athletes developed a compulsive need to exercise and werent enjoying . Since Dr. Glassers initial observations, researchers have estimated that somewhere between one and seven percent of exercisers have developed an obligation to exercise that results in excessive exercise every day. People suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa may also develop anorexia athletica in an attempt to bolster weight loss through exercise.

The Long Term Health Risks Of Anorexia

Anorexia Nervosa is taken very seriously in the mental health community because the damage it inflicts extends to nearly every part of the body. These effects can range from minor infections and poor general health to serious life threatening medical problems. Because it often strikes young people, some of these conditions may carry over into adulthood and last an entire lifetime.

A lot of people -parents, and even some doctors- think that medical complications of anorexia only happen when youre so thin youre wasting away,Rebecka Peebles, MD, a specialist in adolescent medicine at the Lucile Packard Childrens Hospital, told WebMD: Practitioners need to understand that a good therapist is only part of the treatment for anorexia and other eating disorders, and that these clients need treatment from a medical doctor as well.

Finding The Holy Grail Of Eating Disorders

What is Diabulimia? The most dangerous eating disorder ...

I have been struggling with diabulimia on and off since my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in 2011, at age 30. I had just started a PhD and spent the first semester walking around campus with all the classic symptoms of type 1 diabetes: famished, dehydrated, constantly needing to urinate, and experiencing rapid weight loss. After my diabetes diagnosis, when I started injecting insulin, I gained the weight backand then some. It didnt take long to figure out that omitting insulin was not only an effective weight loss tool, compared with vomiting, it was a much less violent way to purge. Having a history of bulimia nervosa, I thought I had found the holy grail. I could eat what I wanted, not use insulin, and not gain weight.

Within months, my glycated haemoglobin level crept back up to the dangerous range. I was fortunate to be connected to a diabetes team, but no one seemed to know about diabulimia, or ask me about my relationship with food and/or history of eating disorders. It was easy to keep my diabulimia secretit was largely invisible. I was a normal weight. I didnt look sick. I blamed my double digit HbA1c level on being someone with brittle or labile diabetes, meaning I am prone to large swings in blood sugar, which was true. I had figured out the right amount of insulin I needed to keep my weight down and avoid diabetic ketoacidosis. This behaviour carried on for eight years.

Gene And Environment Interplay

Neither genes nor environment cause eating disorders on their own. Eating disorders are likely the result of a complicated interplay of these factors. Even when a precipitating factor can be identified, there is almost always a combination of other contributing factors. The precipitating factor is most likely the trigger that tripped a cascade of events.

Genetic susceptibility may influence their response to certain stressors. For example:

  • A person who is genetically susceptible to an eating disorder may be more sensitive to weight-related teasing and have a heightened reaction to it .
  • A person who is genetically vulnerable may continue dieting much longer than peers who diet and then stop.
  • A person who has the temperament that commonly underlies anorexia nervosa may seek out the types of social environments that contribute to the onset of dieting.

What Types Of Eating Disorders Are There

The most common types are:


1. Anorexia Nervosa 


Also known as Anorexia. People living with anorexia are terrified of eating and gaining weight, and become obsessed with these worries. They usually restrict food intake to lose weight. They may also use exercise or vomiting after meals to control weight. Anorexia is a very dangerous illness. Anxiety and depression are common with anorexia.


  • Taking laxatives; 
  • Skipping meals, not eating enough, or using other methods to lose weight. 

Bulimia is sometimes harder to notice in others, as people living with bulimia may be normal weight. Secrecy, feelings of shame, anxiety and depression are often part of bulimia. It is also a dangerous eating disorder, especially if the person is purging. 


3. Binge Eating Disorder  


Binge eating means eating a large amount of food, but without the purging behaviours seen in bulimia. This is not the same as having a bad day and eating more ice cream than you usually would. People with a BED often describe feeling out of control during a binge, that they are often not aware of the food or the amounts they are eating. Binge eating is often triggered by an upsetting situation or difficult emotions. People often feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, and eating gives them a temporary feeling of comfort. But this feeling of comfort is followed by feelings of guilt and shame. People with BED are sometimes larger than an ‘average sized’ person, but not always. They usually suffer from low self-esteem. 



What Are Common Signs And Symptoms

Symptoms vary, depending on the type of eating disorder.


  • Feeling fat even if youre underweight
  • Fixation on body image 
  • Denial that youre too thin
  • Dieting despite being thin
  • Using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics 
  • Throwing up after eating 
  • Obsession with calories, fat, and nutrition 
  • Pretending to eat or lying about eating 
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Inability to stop eating or control what you eat
  • Rapidly eating large amounts of food
  • Eating even when youre full
  • Hiding or stockpiling food to eat later in secret
  • Eating normally around others, but gorging when youre alone
  • Eating continuously throughout the day, with no planned mealtimes
  • Feeling stress or tension that is only relieved by eating
  • Embarrassment over how much youre eating
  • Never feeling satisfied, no matter how much you eat
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after overeating
  • Desperation to control weight and eating habits


Patterns And Predictors Of Death

Patients with anorexia nervosa seem to tend to die at an earlier age than those with bulimia nervosa or binge eating disorder, primarily in early adulthood.

Predictors of shorter time to death include a higher number of lifetime eating disorder hospitalizations, premature discharge from the hospital, alcohol abuse, older age of eating disorder onset, poorer social adjustment, and lower body mass index at the time of hospitalization.

I Live With The Worlds Most Dangerous Eating Disorder

  • Having lived with the challenges of diabulimia and other eating disorders for years, our author describes how her experience might be helped by more official recognition of the disease and the education of healthcare professionals

    Diabulimia is the main reason I was urged to take a medical leave from my academic position. Coined the worlds most dangerous eating disorder, diabulimia is a name used by the media and by some healthcare professionals to describe the omission of insulin to lose weight. Some academics use the term ED-DMT1 to denote the spectrum of diabetes related eating disorders, such as diarexia. Unlike bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder, diabetes related eating disorders are not yet officially classified in their own right.

    Mortality Rates In People With Eating Disorders

    Studies report varying death rates from eating disorders, but there are common findings.

    Collectively, eating disorders have the highest death rates among all mental illnesses.

    In most studies, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of the various eating disorders.

    In a study by Fichter and colleagues, individuals with anorexia nervosa experienced a standardized mortality rate of 5.35 that is, they were five times more likely to have died over the study period than age-matched peers in the general population. Individuals with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder had a standardized mortality rate of 1.5 .

    A meta-analysis by Arcelus and colleagues found similar standardized mortality rates to Fichters study: 5.86 for anorexia nervosa, 1.93 for bulimia nervosa, and 1.92 for eating disorder not otherwise specified . Research has demonstrated higher death rates for bulimia nervosa and EDNOS than these figures. According to one study, the mortality rate for anorexia nervosa patients aged 25 to 44 followed after hospital discharge was 14 times that of age-matched, non-eating disordered peers. 

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