Evidence-Based Comprehensive Psychological, Nutritional and Medical Care

Eating Disorder Complications, Health Risks, & Side Effects

Eating disorders can lead to a variety of potentially life-threatening and dangerous medical complications for individuals. Because the chances that an individual will suffer from these eating disorder complications increases as an eating disorder is allowed to progress, the sooner that individuals begin eating disorder treatment, the better.

Eating disorder complications can vary between individuals. Based on the particular disorder from which a person suffers, possible eating disorder complications and co-occuring psychiatric conditions can include depression, anxiety bone loss, digestive problems, heart disease, and death. If you, a friend, a family member, or loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, learn more about McCallum Place Eating Disorder Centers programs in St. Louis and Kansas City that provide the individualized treatment that you or your loved one requires.

Eating Disorder Complications: Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder during which individuals suffer from cyclical occurrences of bingeing and purging. Because of the extreme and dangerous purging activities characteristic of this eating disorder, complications can include:

  • Heart problems including an irregular heartbeat and heart failure
  • Severe tooth decay and cavities as well as sores in the gums and mouth
  • Water retention, swelling, and abdominal bloating
  • Low potassium levels
  • Swallowing problems and sever esophagus damage
  • Absence of period or irregular menstruation in females
  • Digestive problems and even a lasting dependence on laxatives for bowel movements
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Death

Eating Disorder Complications: Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that has a high risk for causing serious medical complications and health problems in individuals. This eating disorder is driven by an overwhelming desire to be thin. Therefore, it causes individuals to severely limit food intake while also attempting other extreme weight loss and weight control behaviors including compulsive exercising. Most of the eating disorder complications for individuals suffering from anorexia occur as a result of extremely low body weight, low energy availability and/or losing a significant amount of weight in a relatively short period of time. Severe health problems, including death, can also result from mineral imbalances. Eating disorder complications commonly found in individuals suffering from anorexia include:

  • Anemia
  • Stunted Growth
  • Hormonal changes including reproductive, thyroid, stress, and growth hormones
  • Heart problems including mitral valve prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms, and heart failure
  • Slow pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bone density loss and life-long osteoporosis
  • Absence of period and fertility problems in females and decreased testosterone in males
  • Gastrointestinal problems including constipation, bloating, or nausea
  • Electrolyte imbalances including low blood potassium, sodium, and chloride
  • Kidney problems and even kidney failure
  • Neurological problems

Preventing Eating Disorder Complications with Early Treatment

The best way to prevent the occurrence of any of these eating disorder complications is to begin treatment as soon as possible. The more severe or long lasting an eating disorder is, the more likely an individual is to experience serious and even life-threatening complications and to stay stuck in their eating disorder. If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to contact an eating disorder treatment center, like McCallum Place. Beginning a treatment program designed especially for your individuals needs will increase the chances for a successful recovery and reduce the risk of encountering dangerous eating disorder complications.

Marks of Quality Care
  • Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA)
  • Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa
  • International Association Of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP)
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  • RenewED, Eating Disorders Support
  • Washington University in St. Louis

I had not found a therapist who 'got it' until I came to McCallum place.

– ES, age 26