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What Can Eating Disorders Cause

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What Are Some Common Warning Signs Of Bulimia And Bed

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Some of the frequent warns signs of an eating disorder such as bulimia or BED include:

  • Extremely high A1C test results
  • Frequent bouts of poor blood sugar control
  • Anxiety about or avoidance of being weighed
  • Frequent requests to switch meal-planning approaches
  • Frequent and severe low or high blood sugar levels
  • Widely fluctuating blood sugar levels, with no obvious explanation
  • Bingeing with food or alcohol at least twice a week
  • Exercising more than necessary to stay fit
  • Severe family stress

Are There Clinical Trials Studying Eating Disorders

NIMH supports a wide range of research, including clinical trials that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions, including eating disorders. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.

Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct clinical trials with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information about clinical research and how to find clinical trials being conducted around the country, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.

Causes Of Eating Disorders

While its unclear why exactly someone develops an eating disorder, some people believe they stem from social pressures to be thin caused by social media and fashion magazines. Others believe eating disorders are a way to feel in control.

Most specialists believe that eating disorders develop because of a combination of psychological, environmental and genetic factors.

Psychological factors could be:

  • Being vulnerable to depression and anxiety
  • Finding stress hard to manage
  • Worrying a lot about the future
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Having obsessive or compulsive feelings
  • Fear of being labelled fat or overweight

Environmental factors could be:

  • Criticism for your body shape or eating habits
  • Difficult family relationships
  • Having a job or hobby where being thin is seen as ideal

Genetic factors could be:

  • Changes in your brain or hormone levels
  • Family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse

In this section

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What Is The Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa And Bulimia

Both anorexia nervosa and bulimia are characterized by an overvalued drive for thinness and a disturbance in eating behavior. The main difference between diagnoses is that anorexia nervosa is a syndrome of self-starvation involving significant weight loss of 15 percent or more of ideal body weight, whereas patients with bulimia nervosa are, by definition, at normal weight or above.

Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of dieting, binge-eating and compensatory purging behavior to prevent weight gain. Purging behavior includes vomiting, diuretic or laxative abuse. When underweight individuals with anorexia nervosa also engage in bingeing and purging behavior the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa supercedes that of binge/purging type.

Excessive exercise aimed at weight loss or at preventing weight gain is common in both anorexia nervosa and in bulimia.

Anorexia Can Lead To Malnutrition That Causes Brain Damage Learn How Eating Disorders Can Trigger Brain Damage


The body needs sufficient nutrients to function properly. Maintaining healthy amounts of vitamins and minerals can increase energy levels and promote cognitive functioning. However, failing to receive enough nutrients can be detrimental to the brain.

Anorexia is a mental health condition that involves compulsively restricting food intake. Because of a restricted diet, many people with anorexia experience cognitive problems. In extreme cases, anorexia can cause brain damage.

Research has shown that starvation caused by anorexia can lead to brain damage. A 2007 study published in the McGill Journal of Medicine examined the effects of anorexia in a 17-year-old girl.

The studys authors stated that severe weight loss can deteriorate both white and gray matter in the brain. They also explained that while white matter typically returns to healthy levels upon weight restoration, loss of gray matter can persist. A separate study, found that the loss of gray matter can bring about depression, schizophrenia and addiction.

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Medical Issues From Anorexia Bulimia And Other Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental health disorders that occur in many different forms, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified. While each type of eating disorder has its own set of associated symptoms, all types of eating disorders have the potential to cause long-term damage to the bodys organs. Complications from the disorders, as well as co-existing mental health disorders, are wide ranging and sometimes fatal. Appropriate and prompt eating disorder treatments lead patients toward recovery, reducing the risk of medical complications and death.

Eating Disorder Drug Addiction

Eating disorders, being primarily addictive behaviors, are, unsurprisingly, correlated with drug or alcohol dependence. This could be because the underlying dysfunction gives rise to both ailments, or it could be that the drug use began as part of an ill-advised attempt to regulate the eating disorder. Some food-related issues arise as a consequence of substance abuse, but these are generally not considered eating disorders as such.

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Causes And Signs Of Dog Seizures

Several reasons can cause seizures in dogs. If its an existing condition, you may have heard your vet refer to these episodes as epilepsy. Caused by sudden and irregular electrical bursts in the brain, it is similar to what happens when humans experience seizures. This condition in dogs is characterized by uncontrollable shaking or twitching that may last one whole minute or even more.

Symptoms of seizures in dogs may include jerking, loss of consciousness, drooling, stiffening of muscles, chomping, tongue chewing, and foaming at the mouth. In some cases, you will also see dogs that fall on their sides while making paddling motions with their limbs. Witnessing your dog like this, especially if its their first seizure, is both disheartening and terrifying. Additional behaviors during an episode may sometimes include uncontrolled pooping or peeing.

In other cases, dogs will exhibit a dazed or confused state before having a seizure. After the episode, the dog may seem unsteady, disoriented, and temporarily blind. Such an experience may confuse or frighten your pet, urging him to go into hiding. The confusion might also cause your pet to bump into things accidentally or move in circles uncontrollably. Do not aggravate your pets further by invading their space or touching them.

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Does Our Program Have Published Treatment Outcomes

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You can read about patient satisfaction with our treatment program for anorexia nervosa. Reference: Guarda AS, Cooper M, Pletch A, Laddaran L, Redgrave GW, Schreyer CC. Acceptability and tolerability of a meal-based, rapid refeeding, behavioral weight restoration protocol for anorexia nervosa. Int J Eat Diord. 2020 online ahead of print.

You can read about our treatment outcomes for anorexia nervosa in Hopkins BrainWise: A Weighty Approach to Anorexia Nervosa.Reference: Redgrave GW, Coughlin JW, Schreyer CC, Martin LM, Leonpacher AK, Seide M, Verdi AM, Pletch A, Guarda AS. Refeeding and weight restoration outcomes in anorexia nervosa: Challenging current guidelines. Int J Eat Disord. 2015 48:866-73. Pubmed link:

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Urge To Engage In Dysfunctional Behaviors

With disordered thoughts often comes an urge to engage in dysfunctional behaviors that initially may feel soothing. Within a short time, however, these behaviors cause increased difficulties and stressors that make life even harder. Only by replacing these disordered behaviors with healthy coping skills can people effectively work on becoming recovered.

As eating disorders take a toll on the mind, symptoms tend to increase. Physical health complications also increase in tandem, resulting in a sharp decline in well being until these individuals seek anorexia nervosa treatment.

Depression And Eating Disorders

Depression and eating disorders often occur together in the same individual. Sometimes the depression is caused or exacerbated by the negative health and social consequences of the eating disorder. Sometimes the eating disorder is triggered as the result of an attempt by the patient to use abnormal eating habits to essentially self-medicate by way of food intake.

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The Relationship Between Eating Disorders And Body Image

Anorexia is an eating disorder thats directly linked to body image. People who suffer from anorexia have body dysmorphia: a body image thats overwhelmingly negative and often distorted. They see themselves as overweight, even when theyre dangerously thin. They may refuse to eat, causing them to lose large, unhealthy, and sometimes even lethal amounts of weight.

People who suffer from bulimia nervosa also tend to have a negative and distorted body image they eat excessive quantities, then purge their bodies of the food and calories they fear.

Its difficult to untangle body image from food because a negative body image generally entails an intense focus on body weight and shape, as opposed to strength and capability. Because of this, people with a negative body image are at risk of developing an unhealthy relationship to food a relationship that prioritizes weight loss over health and wellness.

How Can Family And Friends Help

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The most important thing that family and friends can do to help a person who has anorexia is to love them. People who have anorexia feel safe, secure, and comfortable with their illness. Their biggest fear is gaining weight, and gaining weight is seen as loss of control. They may deny they have a problem. People who have anorexia will beg and lie to avoid eating and gaining weight, which is like giving up the illness. Family and friends should not give in to the pleading of the anorexic patient.

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Anxiety Disorder And Seizure

In this disorder children adversely respond to some situations or things. They show some fear or dread. You may notice excessive sweating and rapid heartbeat. The anxiety disorder occurs with the excessive formation of stress hormones . Non epileptic seizure when there is too much anxiety due to increased level of stress hormones in the brain.

Bulimia Also Causes Medical Issues

Unlike patients with anorexia, individuals with bulimia do eat, sometimes consuming thousands of calories in a single binging session. In an effort to maintain control and prevent weight gain, they then purge the food by vomiting or abusing laxatives, emetics or diuretics. This binge-and-purge cycle may happen several times per week or, in severe cases, several times per day. While individuals with bulimia are less likely to be underweight and are sometimes overweight, bulimia does cause major medical issues when left untreated.Many of the medical issues that stem from bulimia occur due to frequent vomiting. When individuals with bulimia vomit, over time, the stomach acid erodes the enamel of the teeth, leading to decay. Some individuals experience ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease. The esophagus becomes raw and inflamed, and forceful vomiting has the potential to rupture the esophagus. In rare cases, over-stretching the stomach causes gastric rupture, a condition in which the contents of the stomach spill into the abdominal cavity, constituting a medical emergency.

Both vomiting and laxative abuse lead to electrolyte imbalances which affect the heart rate and the function of other major organs, including the kidneys. Like individuals with anorexia, people with untreated bulimia are at risk of heart failure, kidney failure and death.

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How Eating Disorders Affect The Mind And Body And How Anorexia Treatment Can Help

Without anorexia nervosa treatment, the constant restriction of food and other disordered habits can take a toll on the mind and body. All the tissues in the brain and body start to suffer the effects of malnutrition, as they are unable to get the nutrients they need to survive. As a result, eating disorders can have life-threatening consequences.

Individuals with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or any other eating disorders can acquire help at eating disorder treatment centers to halt and even reverse many of the physical and mental health effects. The treatment center staff will create individualized care plans that help each client become and remain recovered, even through the toughest of times. During their time there, clients can build coping skills that provide them the tools needed to remain resilient every step of the way.

Clients and their families can learn about the importance of anorexia nervosa treatment by exploring the health repercussions that could arise without it. They can use this guide to see the impact on the mind and body from eating disorders and learn how to acquire help at the right treatment center.

Signs Of Having An Eating Disorder

Causes of Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

When most people think of eating disorders, they imagine angsty teens or emotionally distraught young adults. Eating disorders can also affect children under the age of twelve as well. Its important for parents or anyone who works with children to recognize the warning signs, because eating disorders can cause damage to a childs body and keep them from growing and maturing the way they should.

Early detection and prevention are key in treating eating disorders. Many signs can be subtle. A child doesnt have to be hyper-focused on their weight or body image to be at risk for developing an eating disorder.

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Dieting And The Diet Cycle

Dieting is one of the strongest predictors for the development of an eating disorder. Weight loss and fad diets do not take people’s individual requirements into consideration and can result in a person feeling hungry, experiencing low moods, lacking in energy levels and developing poor mental and physical health.

The diet cycle explains how many eating disorders can develop and 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 down to conserve energy, appetite increases and the craving for the restricted foods increases. At this stage, people may 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 been restricted. 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 negative body 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.

Causes Of Eating Disorder Deaths

Eating disorders cause a number of medical problems. No system of the body is immune to the effects of malnutrition. As for causes of death, suicide and cardiovascular complications top the list.

In the previously referenced study by Fichter and colleagues, three-quarters of the deaths for patients with an anorexia nervosa diagnosis were due to cardiovascular complications related to low body weight. A study by Huas and colleagues found that there are two main predictors of death for individuals with bulimia nervosa: a history of prior suicide attempts and a lower minimum BMI.

Across a number of studies, suicide is a common cause of death, and an elevated suicide rate is found amongst all eating disorder diagnoses.

Studies have shown that approximately 20% of the individuals with anorexia who had died had committed suicide, and 23% of the bulimia nervosa deaths were from suicide.

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What Is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder , previously known as selective eating disorder, is a condition where people limit the amount or type of food eaten. Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with ARFID do not have a distorted body image or extreme fear of gaining weight. ARFID is most common in middle childhood and usually has an earlier onset than other eating disorders. Many children go through phases of picky eating, but a child with ARFID does not eat enough calories to grow and develop properly, and an adult with ARFID does not eat enough calories to maintain basic body function.

Symptoms of ARFID include:

  • Dramatic restriction of types or amount of food eaten
  • Lack of appetite or interest in food
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Upset stomach, abdominal pain, or other gastrointestinal issues with no other known cause
  • Limited range of preferred foods that becomes even more limited

Signs Of Bulimia Nervosa

Eating disorders

People with bulimia nervosa have episodes of eating large amounts of food followed by purging , fasting, or exercising excessively to compensate for the overeating.

Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia are often a normal weight. But they have the same intense fear of gaining weight and distorted body image. They see themselves as âfatâ and desperately want to lose weight. Because they often feel ashamed and disgusted with themselves, people with bulimia become very good at hiding the bulimic behaviors.

The following are common signs of bulimia:

  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
  • Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting, or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others, or eating very small portions
  • Exercising excessively
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide the body
  • Complaining about being âfatâ
  • Using gum, mouthwash, or mints excessively
  • Constantly dieting
  • Scarred knuckles from repeatedly inducing vomiting

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What Causes An Eating Disorder

Causes and RisksEating Disorders are very complex illnesses. We still dont fully understand what causes them. Many things are involved, including a persons personality, mental health, genetic and biological factors, and social environment. The reasons are different for each person.

Some risk factors for developing an eating disorder are:

  • a need to be perfect
  • low self-esteem
  • social pressure to be thin
  • problems coping and dealing with stress
  • bullying
  • having few or no friends
  • abuse or trauma
  • neglect
  • taking part in a sport or activity that puts a lot of emphasis on weight or size
  • type 1 diabetes

Even though we dont understand all the causes of eating disorders, we can still effectively treat them. There is evidence to show that many therapies reduce eating disorder symptoms. These therapies focus on the factors that contribute to eating problems rather than the root cause. Visit the treatment section to learn more about the different types of treatment for eating disorders.

I had so many overwhelming feelings at this time in my life, and no idea what to do with them. Bingeing and purging was a temporary release for me, although I realize now that each bulimic episode was only intensifying my feelings. ~Sara

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