Medical Consequences Of Anorexia Nervosa

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Medical Consequences Of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (anorexia) is a serious mental health disorder that has the potential to be fatal. Millions people struggle with anorexia in the United States. Anorexia is not only a mental health disorder, but also a serious medical condition that has severe consequences.

If anorexia is not properly treated it can have devastating effects on the mind and body. Such medical consequences include:


The main cause of the medical consequences seen in cases of anorexia is malnutrition. A person with anorexia will starve himself or herself in effort to feel a sense of control over their bodies. They will perceive themselves to be ugly or overweight even though they have a very low body weight. As they starve themselves they do not get the nutrition they need to be healthy and happy people.

The malnutrition will cause depression, anxiety, and fatigue. It will also cause the body to begin eating its muscle and fat storage to make up for the nutrition it is not getting from food. Malnutrition affects bone density, muscle tone, and the body’s immune system. Malnutrition will play a significant role in each of the following medical consequences.

Low blood pressure

People with anorexia will have low blood pressure. Blood pumps through the body because of the heart. The heart is a muscle. Blood pressure drops if the body does not receive enough energy to keep the heart pumping at a healthy pace. This will result in fatigue, low body temperature, and lightheadedness. It also puts the patient at risk for heart failure.


Anorexia also causes people to develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is the weakening of the bones in your body. This happens when the body does not receive enough calcium. Osteoporosis is a serious condition that can cause fractures of the bones in the body. Conditions of osteoporosis can be severe. In severe conditions something as simple as a cough can break ribs.


Anemia is a condition in which the cells in your blood are not being produced effectively. This causes a low blood cell count, which prevents the body from getting enough oxygen. Oxygen is carried through the body on blood cells. If you have a low blood cell count you will not get enough oxygen to your brain and other organs.


Once your body reaches a low body weight you will stop getting your period. This is called Amenorrhea. Your body’s ability to produce and regulate hormones is affected when you are underweight and malnourished. The absence of periods can be reversed if addressed early. However, the more time that goes by the higher the chances of permanent infertility.

Kidney damage

Anorexia also causes severe, long-term damage to the kidneys. When the body is not getting enough nutrition the kidneys cannot function properly. Anorexia causes deficits in electrolytes, potassium, and proteins. These deficits cause the kidneys to stop working properly. This is serious because kidneys are essential to bodily functioning. Kidney damage can cause kidney failure, which will ultimately lead to death.

Anorexia is a serious disorder that can lead to devastating consequences if not properly addressed by a mental health professional. If you are concerned that you or a loved one is suffering from anorexia, consult with a mental health professional or your primary physician.


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