It’s safe to say that almost everyone is aware of the absolutely devastating effects an eating disorder can have on the body.
Not everyone knows that the long-term consequences are much more than skin deep. Eating disorders that leave the body ravaged and devoid of nutrients also damage the brain. According to psychiatrist Kim Dennis, “Eating disorders affect the thinking parts of our brain that we use to make rational decisions. Those parts of the brain themselves can actually shrink and degenerate during an active eating disorder.”
Says Dennis “This person is at risk of a sudden cardiac death. This person is at risk of osteoporosis, which is one of the few aspects of having an eating disorder that can be irreversible well into recovery.”
A Biomedcentral.com study published in April of 2013 “suggests that excessive restrained eating as found in those with anorexia nervosa coincides with structural brain changes.” This study found global reductions in the gray and white matter parts of patients’ brains.
In addition to neurological problems, eating disorders can cause:
- Life-threatening changes in heart rhythm
- Imbalances in the electrolytes of the body
- Infertility or problems conceiving and carrying a child
- Loss of bone density
- Anemia, or low iron in the blood
- Changes in hormone levels including those responsible for growth and stress management
- Tooth erosion, cavities, and gum problems
- Low potassium levels
- Swallowing problems and esophagus damage
While some of conditions caused by an eating disorder are reversible, some are not. If you think someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, getting help is important.