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Eating Disorder (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating) Complications, Risks, Dangers

Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail: and Jacob Palme, professor, Stockholm University.

First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest revision: 08 Aug 2008.


 Which complications/side effects/risks can be caused by eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder?


Pictures of girls with eating disorders If you suffer from an Eating Disorder like Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa or some other eating disorder, it is not only a problem in itself, but it could be the origin of a series of medical complications that make the disorder worse and in the long run might cause irreparable physical damage.

The most frequent medical complications of eating disorders are linked to damage fundamentally caused to the body by a strict diet - protein-calorie deficit and weight loss. Elimination and weight control behaviour like self-induced vomiting, inadequate laxative and diuretics use are causes of other complications. More.

When there is an excessive weight increase, medical complications of obesity can result.

To be more precise, the worst complication is obviously death. According to long-term studies carried out in different countries, it has been found that the mortality rate of Anorexia Nervosa patients is between 4% and 18%. It is a death risk that can be compared to that of drug addiction.

Death during Anorexia Nervosa is usually caused by cardiac, pulmonary and renal damage, linked to grave malnutrition, but also linked to self-aggressive behaviour that is found in roughly 20% of patients.

Other classic complications of malnutrition are: amenorrhoea (menstrual cycle interruption) More , anemia (red blood cell diminution), osteoporosis: loss of bone density, muscular weakness, insomnia, hair loss, body hair increase, skin dryness, low body temperature, irregular heart beat, liver damage, kidney damage, damage to the immune system. The risk of getting gall stones increases. (More information)

Women with anorexia find it more difficult to conceive, and if they get pregnant, there is a larger risk of miscarriage and premature birth, which can cause harm to the newborn child.

Vomiting, if present, can cause gastritis and permanent damage to teeth, enamel and dentine, painful swellings of salivary glands that make a face look like squirrel cheeks and sub-acute laryngitis that can cause permanent damage to the vocal cords.

Diuretics abuse causes, in the long-run, renal damage and stagnation of body fluid, arterial pressure decrease and an increased risk of heart-circulatory failure.
Laxative abuse causes chronic intestinal inflammation that in time causes the loss of intestinal motor capacities and permanent constipation.

Every time that persons affected by eating disorders have one of these complications they should seek medical advice to evaluate the real gravity and begin the necessary therapy.

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