The long-term effects of anorexia can impact that person's life physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially for years to come. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders are one of the most deadly mental illnesses. Even if the individual receives treatment and recovers from the eating disorder, they may experience several long-term effects of anorexia. These effects can be psychological, physical, and neurological.
Long-Term Psychological Effects of Anorexia
People with anorexia nervosa often have a distorted body image. They may believe they are not thin enough to conform to society's standards for beauty or thin enough to perform as expected in a sport or other activity.
The long-term psychological effects of anorexia can include mental health disorders like:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Suicidal thoughts
This drive for perfectionism or control can continue after the person receives anorexia treatment. That's why it's important to address potential underlying causes for an eating disorder in any treatment program. Learn more about the warning signs of anorexia and how you can spot it in loved ones or yourself.
Seen most commonly in young adults, a phenomenon called drunkorexia is a harmful practice of restricting food intake to compensate for alcohol consumption, leading to physical and mental health issues. When combined with the long-term effects of anorexia, the consequences can be severe, including malnutrition, a weakened immune system, and organ damage. Learn more about drunkorexia here.
Long-Term Physiological Effects of Anorexia
Because people with anorexia aren't eating much food, they're not getting all the nutrients their bodies need. This malnourishment can cause long-lasting physical health problems, including:
- Bone density loss and osteoporosis
- Muscle loss and weakness
- Hair loss
- Fertility problems
- Pregnancy complications
- Heart problems
- Poor circulation
- Weak immune system
- Organ damage
- Intestinal and digestive problems
When people recover from anorexia and get their lives back on track, some of these issues can resolve themselves. For example, their hair may grow back and they may start to sleep well again. They can build muscle and regain strength.
Other issues, like bone density loss and heart problems, can be permanent. A weakened immune system leaves the person susceptible to other diseases. Organ damage can lead to organ failure.
These physical health problems cause additional medical challenges and ongoing complications for the rest of the person's life. The longer the person lives with anorexia, the more severe these problems can become. Take our anorexia test to evaluate whether your symptoms align with the characteristics of anorexia nervosa.
Long-Term Neurological Effects
The long-term effects of anorexia can include nerve damage. People with anorexia could experience numbness or tingling in the hands and feet or even seizures. Malnourishment has consequences for the brain as well as the body.
If the brain isn't getting enough energy, the person may feel sluggish or find it hard to concentrate. Without proper nourishment over time, the brain is forced to change how it operates. In many cases, these changes aren't reversible.
Treatment Options for Anorexia
In severe cases, anorexia may require hospitalization. Patients might need to be monitored if they've developed cardiac health problems, osteoporosis, or other mental health disorders.
Anorexia treatment is multifaceted and customized to meet the individual's needs. It could include:
- Group, family, and individual therapy sessions
- Nutritional counseling and meetings with a dietitian
- Meal planning guidance
- Psychiatric care to help identify underlying factors that contribute to the anorexia
- Metabolic testing
- Body composition analysis
- Partial hospitalization
It is crucial to recognize that bulimia nervosa bears similarities to other eating disorders like anorexia. While acknowledging these similarities, it is equally important to understand the differences between bulimia and anorexia to ensure appropriate treatment can be provided.
Learn More About Anorexia Treatment at The Kahm Center
At The Kahm Center, we specialize in partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) for the treatment of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. We use metabolic testing and body composition analysis in addition to group and individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more.
The Kahm Center's professionals take a patient-centered approach with small group sizes and individualized treatment plans. Our goal is the well-being and recovery of our patients. Contact us today to learn more about our facility, highly-trained staff, and customized intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs.
Anorexia is the most common cause of weight loss in young women, and about 80-90% of people with anorexia are female. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every six Americans binge drink, and some of these individuals struggle with substance abuse disorder and are unable to stop drinking.
Drunkorexia is the convergence of these two disorders. The consequences of drunkorexia can be severe, including malnutrition, liver damage, and an increased risk of alcohol poisoning. This guide helps someone struggling with drunkorexia understand the condition and the next steps:
Definition and Details of Drunkorexia
Sometimes, a person worries about the extra calories that come from drinking alcohol and decides to offset the calories by reducing their food intake. This is defined as drunkorexia, and it is more commonly seen in women than in men.
The term drunkorexia does not have clinical usage among mental health professionals. Rather, it has become a widely-used slang term to describe individuals who intentionally don't eat to compensate for the high-calorie intake from binge drinking. This behavior is most commonly observed in college students and young adults.
Individuals who are dealing with drunkorexia may not have initially experienced anorexia nervosa or a substance use disorder. The fear of consuming extra calories from alcohol, along with the urge to drink, leads to the development of drunkorexia. By choosing not to eat before drinking, a person can experience the effects of alcohol much faster.
The effects of alcohol and substance abuse disorder can lead to a host of issues, as can the lack of a healthy and nutritious diet. Unfortunately, drunkorexia becomes a pattern that a person struggles with and can be difficult to break on their own.
Signs of Drunkorexia
The signs and symptoms of drunkorexia mimic those of anorexia and substance abuse disorder of alcohol. However, it's important to note that the person with drunkorexia avoids eating throughout the day with the intention of binge drinking in the evening. Here are some other signs to consider:
- Counting calories
- Mood swings
- Blackouts (due to alcohol consumption)
- Lying about how much the person eats or how much alcohol they drink
- Unable to attend classes or go to work
- Stomach issues, such as pain, constipation, and more
- Extreme exercising to offset calorie consumption
- Dental issues
Many of these signs and symptoms can indicate an eating disorder alone. What makes drunkorexia different is that the person is reducing calories by not eating food and meals to offset the calories they plan to get through drinking alcohol, especially binge drinking.
Long-Term Effects of Drunkorexia
It's essential that a person with drunkorexia seek treatment to minimize some of the long-term effects of the condition. Most long-term effects reflect those found in people struggling with anorexia and substance abuse disorder. Some of these include:
- Legal repercussions
- Damage to the kidney and liver due to alcohol consumption
- Malnutrition and reduced growth
- Neurological problems, such as seizures
- Nerve damage
- Hormonal and reproductive issues, especially in women
- Blood pressure problems
The long-term effects of drunkorexia can be life-threatening. A person struggling with drunkorexia should seek treatment promptly to minimize any of these effects that might continue throughout their lifetime. The long-term effects of anorexia, including malnutrition, weakened immune system, and organ damage, can worsen these consequences and have lasting impacts. If you or someone you know is struggling with drunkorexia or anorexia, seeking prompt treatment and support is crucial to minimize these effects and improve long-term outcomes.
Treatment for Drunkorexia
As with any substance abuse disorder, drunkorexia treatment always begins when the person stops drinking or using the substance. With drunkorexia, the person binge drinks but might not experience the withdrawal symptoms that an alcoholic may encounter, especially if they go days or weeks between binges.
Once the person stops drinking, they'll need intensive therapy or treatment like an IOP to identify the reasons behind the eating disorder. At the beginning of treatment, the center might perform other tests to determine the patient's overall health and well-being.
Therapy can include working with a therapist one on one, group therapy, family therapy, dietitian, meal planning and prep, and more. The goal is to help the person build the skills they need to make and maintain a full recovery.
Eating Disorder Treatment in Vermont
When a person struggles with drunkorexia, they need to seek treatment to achieve recovery and maintain a more normal lifestyle. Drunkorexia can lead to serious health consequences, including liver damage, malnutrition, and alcohol poisoning. Seeking help from medical professionals and support groups can be crucial in overcoming this disorder.
At Kahm Center for Eating Disorders, we offer metabolic testing and body composition analysis along with more traditional therapies to treat eating disorders. Our approach is rooted in empathy and kindness, with the goal of guiding individuals who are struggling with eating disorders back to their normal lives. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can help and the services we offer.