7 Long Term Effects of Anorexia

There are several long term effects of anorexia. Anorexia is an eating disorder defined as self-starvation in order to maintain abnormally low body weight. This disorder is very dangerous and causes damage to multiple organs. If left untreated, the person suffering from anorexia can die from complications. Professional treatment can reverse some of the effects of anorexia. However, other side effects are more long term.

Long Term Effects of Anorexia


Osteoporosis is a condition that causes significant loss in bone density. The body of a person with anorexia becomes deficient in nutrients like calcium due to the reduced food intake. A lack of calcium will make bones brittle and weak. Anorexia during a person’s developing stage can severely stunt their growth. In many cases, osteoporosis is irreversible. Bone loss can begin as early as 6 months after anorexia has developed.


Anorexia causes hormonal changes. Women are more affected by these hormonal shifts. Estrogen levels are reduced when the body is malnourished. This lack of estrogen limits the ability to conceive. Females who are underweight and not receiving adequate nutrients will eventually stop having their menstrual cycle. Although hormone levels may go back to normal after treatment, menstrual cycles and fertility may never return.

Gastrointestinal Complications

A person suffering from anorexia does not receive adequate nutrients. This malnutrition causes the intestinal muscles to weaken and become incapable of passing digested food. This leads to constipation which, in severe cases, can cause the intestines to rupture. Pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, may also develop due to limited food intake. Pancreatitis results in severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.


Depression is highly associated with anorexia. For many people, depression remains long after their eating disorder. Research shows that 50–75% of anorexic individuals experience a lifetime of Major Depressive Disorder. Symptoms of depression include lethargy and indifference. People struggling with anorexia and depression are at a high risk of suicide.

Cardiovascular Complications

When the body is starved, it breaks down fat and muscle for fuel. In many cases, the heart muscle begins to break down first. This makes the heart weak and incapable of performing daily functions. Blood pressure is reduced to dangerously low levels and heart rate slows. As the heart muscle weakens over time, an individual becomes at high risk for heart failure and death.

Hair Loss

A long term effect of anorexia might include hair loss. Low food intake and fat absorption cause brittle hair and dry skin. The hair will then begin breaking off or falling out. People struggling with anorexia will begin to grow fine body hair called lanugo. The purpose of this body hair is to conserve body heat since anorexia causes the body to cool during starvation.

Neurological Conditions

The brain relies on nutrients to operate. Without them, the brain lacks the energy to function. Prolonged malnourishment due to anorexia will irreversibly alter the brain and how it operates. Many people who suffer from anorexia develop seizure disorders as a result. When anorexia is properly treated, some neurological disorders can be reversed. Many people aren’t that lucky and live with neurological disorders long after anorexia is treated.

Treatment for Anorexia

When left untreated, all mental illnesses can be dangerous. Anorexia, however, has the highest death rate among them. Long term health issues caused by anorexia should never be ignored.  Fortunately, help is available for people struggling with this eating disorder.


Therapy is an important part of recovering from anorexia. Therapists are able to identify what caused the eating disorder and assist the individual in the healing process. If a person is also struggling with depression or anxiety, therapy will help.  Continued therapy can prevent relapse and help rebuild the individual’s confidence.


Anorexia causes malnourishment and low body weight. Late-stage anorexia leads to damage to various organs. Because of the medical complications that can arise from these side effects, medical treatment may be necessary. Medical professionals will monitor weight and infuse nutrients back into the body. The patient will follow food and exercise regimens to return to a healthy weight.

Help is Here

Anorexia is a serious eating disorder. The long term effects of anorexia can be fatal. Proper treatment can correct anorexic behaviors. Riverwalk Recovery Center is experienced in treating eating disorders.

We provide effective relief from this crippling disorder with proven therapies. Our team of clinicians and nutritionists will work with you to overcome the effects of anorexia. You deserve to have a healthy relationship with food and yourself restored, and we can help you achieve that. You do not have to fight this battle with anorexia alone. We understand what you are going through and we are ready to help.

If you or a loved one needs help healing from the long term effects of anorexia, call us today. Together, we will beat this disorder.

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