Anorexia Nervosa is a dangerous disorder due to the severe medical complications that it can cause. Anorexia Nervosa is a condition where a person starves him or herself and/or exercises excessively, to the point of where his or her body suffers from the symptoms and complications of severe starvation-induced malnutrition. The symptoms and effects of Anorexia are the same as they are with people who suffer from malnutrition due to famine.
The first sign of starvation due to Anorexia is weight loss that continues despite reaching or already being at a healthy weight. Rapid weight loss can also be a sign, although with some medically supervised weight loss programs rapid weight loss is expected.
Most Anorexics either eat very little, or they purge when they do eat, so the body cannot get the nutrients it needs to function adequately. After experiencing starvation for a period of time, the body will try to protect the heart, brain, and other vital organs by slowing down its metabolism and decreasing the heart rate, thyroid function, and blood pressure.
In girls and women, menstruation becomes erratic and in most cases eventually ceases. After a while the hair and nails will become brittle, and significant hair loss will occur. Persons with Anorexia will also suffer from constipation frequently, and the dangerously low levels of fat in the body will also lead to lowering of normal body temperature, causing the person to feel unusually cold most of the time.
When the body is starving, it starts to deplete muscle tissue since it can no longer draw what it needs from food or fat reserves. Since the body is receiving inadequate amounts of iron, anemia can also occur, causing the body to be less efficient at using oxygen.
Lack of oxygen and nutrients can cause dizziness and light-headedness, eventually leading to “foggy” thinking and fainting spells. Severe Anorexia can result in liver failure, kidney failure, and eventually heart and brain damage.
Long before this point is reached, the Anorexic should be hospitalized, ideally for the period of time it takes to treat the various complications, raise the patient’s nutrition levels, and increase the patient’s body weight to an acceptable level.
Unfortunately, this can take weeks or even months, and due to health insurance restrictions few Anorexics can stay in the hospital that long. Intense medical and psychiatric outpatient treatments are often necessary for the patient to experience a successful recovery.