Eating Disorders and Physical Consequences

Eating disorders are behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbances in eating behavior and associated distressing thoughts and emotions. Eating disorders are very serious as they affect physical, psychological, and social functions. Different types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

This disorder is characterized by self-starvation and weight loss. Individuals with anorexia nervosa often believe that their body part is too fat and spend a lot of time critically examining themselves in front of mirrors. Their body mass index (BMI) is always underweight, below 18. It is a serious condition, as it has the highest mortality rate.

Restriction of behavior

The person weighs much less than their normal weight. Weight loss is usually achieved by dieting, starving, and engaging in excessive exercise. They restrict their eating and do excessive exercise.

Intense fear of gaining weight and being fat

Individuals with anorexia nervosa are worried about gaining weight or becoming fat. However, the fear is not diminished by weight loss.

Distorted body image

Anorexia nervosa thinks they are overweight and measures their body parts, particularly the abdomen, hips, and thighs. They constantly measure the size of different body parts and weigh their body weight and shape. Their self-esteem is associated with maintaining thinness.

Physical consequences of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate
  • Kidney and gastrointestinal problems
  • Weakness in the bone mass
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hormonal changes
  • Hair Loss
  • Menstrual irregularities
Bulimia Nervosa

The disorder is characterized by episodes of rapid consumption of a large amount of food, which is followed by compensating behaviors such as vomiting, fasting, or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain. Bulimia nervosa is of two types in the DSM criteria: a purging type and a non-purging type, in which compensatory behaviors are fasting or excessive exercise.

If the bingeing and purging occur only in the context of extreme weight loss, it is not diagnosed as bulimia nervosa. The primary difference between anorexia and bulimia is weight loss. People with anorexia nervosa lose a significant amount of weight, while people with bulimia nervosa do not lose much weight. In bulimia, binge eating is triggered by stress and overwhelming emotions, which continue until the person is uncomfortably full. Foods that are consumed rapidly are sweets such as ice cream, cake, and chocolates. Bulimia nervosa can co-morbid with other diagnoses such as depression, personality disorder, anxiety disorder, substance abuse, and conduct disorder.

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating.
  • Recurrent compensatory behavior is needed to prevent weight gain.
  • Body shape and weight are extremely important for self-evaluation.
Physical consequences of bulimia nervosa
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Frequent purging: potassium depletion
  • Diarrhea
  • Tearing of tissue in the stomach and throat
  • Loss of dental enamel
  • Swollen salivary gland
Binge Eating

The disorder is characterized by recurrent eating, lack of control during the binge eating episode, distress about eating, and the individual always eating rapidly and alone. People with binge eating disorders are always obese; their BMI is greater than 30, which is considered obese.

Physical consequences of binge eating disorder
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Insomnia
  • Joint/muscle problems



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