The Mental and Physical Health Impacts Caused by Eating Disorders

Eating disorders cause a wide array of direct and indirect health complications and side effects. In this article, we’re taking a big picture approach to understanding how eating disorders can cause health complications and side effects, and why these complications and side effects tend to worsen over time.

Impacts on Physical Health

Your body needs a certain amount of food and water on a daily basis in order to perform basic functions and complete daily tasks. If a person with an eating disorder severely restricts their food and/or routinely over exercises, you may begin to see the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Fatigue
  • Brittle nails
  • Dry skin
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hair loss
  • Lanugo hair growth
  • Tooth decay, particularly if the individual regularly purges
  • Digestive issues in cases of laxative abuse

These symptoms will worsen over time if the underlying causes of an eating disorder are not addressed. Without treatment, the severe physical side effects of eating disorders can lead to permanent organ damage, seizures, and even heart failure.

Impacts on Mental Health

Eating disorders, more often than not, stem from a lack of self-confidence, a feeling of disgust at one’s self, and an unwavering belief that weight loss will improve confidence and body positivity. Despite being both unhealthy and untrue, these emotional responses are so compulsive that it’s almost impossible for a person to ignore them. As a result, the mental side effects of an eating disorder are usually the first noticeable symptoms, with the physical side effects becoming apparent as the disorder progresses.

As time passes, the mental side effects of an eating disorder tend to become worse and worse, leading to a cycle of withdrawal from social obligations, isolation from loved ones, and abandonment of previously beloved hobbies or sports. This can exacerbate or lead to the development of the following secondary symptoms:

  • Feeling isolated and alone
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Disordered thought patterns
  • Not feeling in control
  • Disordered self-perceptions
  • Obsessive calorie counting or extremely frequent weight checks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem reinforced by negative self-perception
  • Inability to focus on any given task

The mental and physical side effects of an eating disorder often work together to send an individual spiraling into a destructive pattern of self-degradation and physical restriction. These thought patterns only compound over time and will need to be addressed during eating disorder recovery.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder or displays any of the symptoms mentioned above, please get in touch with a medical or dietary professional.

Sources: Monte Nido, The Emily Program

Photo: Pixabay

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