How long have you recovered from anorexia

What are the consequences of anorexia?


People with anorexia have due to the insufficient supply of nutrients and the mental impairments their illness, their body and their psyche at high risk permanent damage to add.
This risk increases the longer the anorexia is left untreated. Many of these sequelae are visible when they affect physical appearance, whereas the psychological effects of anorexia go undetected for a long time.​​​​​​​

The organic consequences of anorexia

Hair loss from anorexia

Hair loss is a common symptom of anorexia caused by the long-term undersupply of essential nutrients comes about.

Although this is more of a cosmetic problem, it puts a lot of strain on those affected.

Also Skin and nails suffer from the lack of vitamins and trace elements.
The reason for this is the constant renewal of these cells, which requires a lot of energy and special nutrients. In the absence of these building materials, the scalp hair thins and eventually falls out, the skin becomes pale and thin, and the nails become brittle.
Those affected look sickly and are increasingly asked about their unhealthy appearance. Often these aesthetic problems first lead to the doctor.

Fortunately that is Hair lossreversible in most caseswhen adequate nutrition is guaranteed again. Then the hair grows back and the skin and nails recover. Here you canFood supplements can be used to accelerate regeneration.

Also read our topic:How is anorexia treated?

The absence of a menstrual period

Most of the patients with anorexia are women. In addition to hair loss and other aesthetic consequences of their disease, they also suffer from irregularities in their menstrual cycle. Because if the female body loses too much fat, goes the Hormone production drops dramatically.
On the one hand, this is due to the "Power saving mode", in which the body is transferred and in which the most vital organs are unfortunately supplied, and on the other hand Loss of fat cells in themselves, which, like the ovaries, can produce estrogen. Those affected therefore have one Deficiency of female sex hormoneswho can no longer adequately regulate the cycle.

There are menstrual disorders, ovulation does not occur and the woman has no menstrual period. As a result, she cannot get pregnant either. Because the absence of the menstrual period and the resulting infertility is a protective mechanism of the body in order not to burden women in this physically weakened state with pregnancy. If the malnutrition persists for too long, the hormonal cycle can remain permanently impaired and in the worst case to a persistent infertility to lead. Some women are therefore dependent on the help of specialists after a long-term anorexia illness in order to become pregnant.

Further information on this topic can be found at:Menstrual irregularities

Constipation due to anorexia

Also Constipationare often found as a side effect of anorexia. Because the intestine only works properly when it is full, which is mainly due to fiber. The stimulus is absent insufficient food intake, will the Intestine sluggish and hardly moves anymore.

The small masses of stool often remain in the gastrointestinal tract for days, causing pain and a bloated stomach can go hand in hand. This can also be visually disruptive.

You may also be interested in this topic: Home remedies for constipation

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Frequent freezing

The frequent freezing in anorexic patients, this is not due to a lack of insulation by body fat, as one would initially assume. To blame Metabolism, due to the lack of nutrients shut down becomes.
The body is, so to speak, in "energy saving mode" and temperature regulation is disturbed. The Maintaining body temperature costs energy, the with anorexia simply is missing. The heat is limited to the vital internal organs, which is why the rest of the body quickly becomes hypothermic and those affected easily freeze.

Can anorexia lead to osteoporosis?

The bones are also subject to constant build-up and breakdown in order to adapt to the stress exerted by the body. To do this, they need above all Calcium and vitamin D.that must be supplied with the diet. In the case of women, the Estrogen production an important role that inhibits the breakdown of bone and stimulates its build-up.
With anorexia, on the one hand too few nutrients recorded, on the other hand clearly produces fewer hormones, which is why especially with women Risk of osteoporosis increases. Fractures and deformations of bones are the consequence.

Read more on this topic:Osteoporosis in underweight

How does the complexion of the skin change with anorexia?

The cells of the skin, like hair and nails, are subject to a constant regeneration cycle in order to protect the body from the environment. This requires various nutrients and energy that are not available in sufficient quantities in the case of anorexia. Are particularly important in this context Vitamin B12, folic acid and ironwhich are essential for the regeneration of all cells.

If these substances are deficient, the skin therefore dry, flaky and pale, Wounds only heal very slowly and the dwindling elasticity makes the skin look significantly older. By breaking down the subcutaneous fat to step also Veins and tendons more prominent and the skin shimmers bluish in places.

In places that have become particularly thin, the so-called Lanugo hairs occur, a holdover from embryonic development. It sits like a fluff on the skin of the fetus, is supposed to protect it from heat and cold and can reappear in anorexic people. If the person concerned gains weight again and receives all the important nutrients, the damage usually regresses.

You might also be interested in this topic:Vitamin deficiency

The effects of anorexia on brain performance

The brain is the most important organ in our body and is therefore best supplied. However it is on a adequate carbohydrate intakebecause it cannot rely on body fat for energy. If the necessary supply of carbohydrates is not available over a longer period of time, the metabolic processes and thus the performance of the brain decrease and it comes to cognitive limitations howDifficulty concentrating.

In addition, persistent anorexia leads to Breakdown of nerve cells and one Shrinkage of the brain. In adults, this damage is at least partially reduced as soon as an adequate supply of nutrients is guaranteed again. However, the condition affects Children and adolescents, in which the brain development is not yet complete, can some areas of the brain permanently impaired stay.
Above all, the amygdala as the central interconnection of emotions and the hippocampus as an integration point for memory and learning are affected. A high susceptibility to depression and other psychiatric illnesses is the consequence.

Read our article:What role do vitamins play in depression?

The effects on the kidney

In order for the kidneys to work properly, they need one constant supply of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and other charged particles (ions). This allows the kidneys to concentrate urine and expel harmful substances. If these electrolytes are missing, that is Renal function impaired, Water is stored in the tissue and pollutants such as uric acid are only excreted inefficiently. The resulting high uric acid levels Damages kidney tissue and can build up in the form of crystals in joints, causing pain in the sense of a gout leads.

They are also in the kidney Hormones formed that For the Bone metabolism and the Blood formation are important and are consequently decreased in anorexic people. Damage to the kidney can lead to bone problems and anemia. Unfortunately, the kidneys are very sensitive organs that move frequently no longer regenerate completely. Anorexia therefore often has one chronic renal failureresult.

Also the Adrenal glands, small organs attached to the kidneys that make vital hormones like that Produce cortisol, take damage from the lack of nutrients. After many years of anorexia, patients can therefore be dependent on the intake of these hormones if their own body no longer produces them in sufficient quantities.

You may also be interested in this topic:Adrenal insufficiency

Is cardiac output impaired due to anorexia?

If the body switches to the back burner as a result of a lack of nutrients, the heartbeat slows down and blood pressure drops. This means that those affected are affected tired quickly, hardly efficient and run out of breath with the slightest effort.
In addition, those already described have Electrolyte imbalances effects not only on the kidneys but also on the heart. The individual heart muscle cells depend on a balanced electrolyte concentration in order to be properly activated and to contract at the same time. As a result, if there is an electrolyte imbalance, the heart cannot beat properly and it happens Arrhythmiathat can be potentially life-threatening.

Also a so-called Pericardial effusion, an accumulation of fluid in the connective tissue around the heart, occurs more frequently in anorexic people. This is painful and can constrict the heart. If the eating disorder persists for a long time, such damage to the heart often remains more or less pronounced, even if the affected person eats normally again.

More information on this topic:Is Low Blood Pressure Dangerous?

Consequences for the gastrointestinal tract

The gastrointestinal tract suffers from the disease depending on the form of anorexia and the method of weight loss.
The upper parts, e.g. the esophagus, will especially at forced Vomit in the context of bulimia damagedbecause the acid from the stomach attacks the lining. The consequences are Inflammation of the esophagussome of which heal with scarring and leave constrictions behind. These can cause problems again and again in the course of life. In addition, the mucous membrane cells can degenerate due to the constant damage, so malignant tumors develop.

The lower parts of the gastrointestinal tract, i.e. the small and large intestines, are damaged by the fact that the cells cannot regenerate properly due to the lack of nutrients, the stimulus from the passage of the food supplied is missing and the sensitive intestinal flora disturbed becomes.
This is how it comes to Digestive problems and constipation, which can be very painful and distressing to the patient. The sensitive milieu of the intestinal flora in particular regenerates slowly, which is why problems in the gastrointestinal tract can persist for some time after therapy.

They suffer bulimia? Find out more about this.

The psychological consequences of anorexia

What are the psychological consequences of anorexia?

The anorexia is basically one mental illness.
It is particularly common in people with an ambitious, performance-oriented character, who suffer from low self-esteem and for whom anorexia is a type Sense of power represents. The food restriction gives those affected a certain amount of control over their body that others do not have, and thus sets them apart from the crowd from their point of view.

In addition, the brain reacts (at least initially) with an increase in performance. This mechanism is designed to help you get through the lean times ahead and is based on, among other things, one Dopamine releasewho play a central role in the Addiction emergence occupies.
At the onset of anorexia, the person feels very good, downright intoxicated, and is encouraged in their actions by biological mechanisms. These processes confirm those affected in their assumption that they are only worth something if they maintain the anorexia.

Over time, there is a lot of psychological stress due to the increasing pressure and physical decline. Especially depressions are often seen in anorexic patients. But also biologically the brain suffers from the insufficient supply and breaks down what is too Loss of concentration and performance and Changes of character leads. The psychological consequences of anorexia are therefore usually more serious than the physical.

Also read our topic:Therapy for an eating disorder

The effects on libido

Loss of libido is another typical consequence of malnutrition. In women This is due, among other things, to the hormonal imbalance in which the Ovulation and the associated increase in libido does not occur.
In men it occurs due to the hormonal dysregulation Loss of potency. The psyche is also an important factor, as patients usually feel uncomfortable and unattractive in their bodies. In addition, the physical weakness as a direct consequence of the insufficient supply makes sexual intercourse more difficult.

What are the consequences of anorexia for the workplace?

The anorexia affects at least at first often positive on performance the person concerned, especially at school or at work.
Indeed dwindles this initial increase in performance after a few weeks of nutrient deficiency and the body and brain can no longer work properly. Difficulty concentrating, gaps in memory and Carelessness mistake are the consequence.

But accompanying psychological problems can also become noticeable, for example Depression or conflicts with colleagues. Those affected are under enormous pressure, especially if they want to keep their illness a secret at work.
In the long run, this condition is unsustainable and leads to severe anorexia often to Occupational disability.

Particularly at risk are people in professions where appearance or physical fitness are of fundamental importance, e.g. in the Fashion industry or under Athletes. In such a workplace, the disease can go undetected for a long time.

Additional information

Quality assurance by: Dr. med. Nicolas Gumpert | Last change: 03.04.2021