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In the Media | What Specific Effects can Eating Disorders Have on your Health?

Written by: Ally Sweeten
Published by: Giddy

Eating disorders are a classification of psychiatric illnesses within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). These conditions are distinguished by their detrimental effects on patterns of thinking, eating and behavior surrounding food and self-image.

Individuals develop an unhealthy preoccupation with their bodies, often having a disproportionate viewpoint on appearance as it relates to self-worth. The disordered behaviors aren’t the root of the problem but rather a way to cope with negative psychological issues. Consequently, these behaviors have a strong impact on psychological, sexual and biological health, and can become fatal if left unchecked.

Of all the disorders under this umbrella, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder (BED) are the most widely recognized. Each has a unique symptomatology, but their consequences are equally widespread. Patients may lose the ability to function in their daily lives, which negatively affects their interpersonal relationships and impedes occupational capabilities.

Sufferers often have diminished sexual performance and see romantic relationships fall apart, and some may even have reduced work-related skills that cost them academic standing and/or job stability.

Heart health and eating disorders

“People with eating disorders might engage in binge eating, self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and inappropriate use of laxatives and diuretics—all of these behaviors carry medical risks,” explained Henry Cheng, M.D., the regional medical director of The Renfrew Center, an eating disorders treatment facility in New York City. “Of particular concern are electrolyte abnormalities that can be caused by vomiting, as these can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and even sudden death.”


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