Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service

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Physical effects

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Physical effects of eating disorders

Touch the buttons on the right to learn about some of the physical effects eating disorders can have on your body.

Most of these symptoms are reversible once a healthy weight is restored and regular eating.

Brain

Trouble maintaining focus.

Irritability.

Mood changes which may affect relationship with others.

Lack of nutrients from not eating can cause brain to shrink.

Headaches can be regular and effect concentration.

Hair & skin

Hair can thin, become brittle and can sometimes begin to fall out.

You could grow hair in other unusual parts of the body, this is because your body is trying to keep itself warm.

Skin may become dry because of dehydration and you might find you bruise easily.

Self-induced vomiting can cause discolouration on hands and feet and looking pale.

Brittle nails.

Cheeks, mouth & throat

Stomach acids released during induced vomiting can cause:

  • tooth decay,
  • staining,
  • gum disease,
  • swelling of cheeks
  • damage to your oesophagus causing sore throat and sometimes leading to blood in vomit.

Heart & blood

Reduced heart rate can starve the brain of oxygen.

Heart rate slows sending less blood around your body causing you to feel tired and cold which could also lead to heart failure.

Low blood pressure can cause fainting and dizziness.

Muscles, joints & bones

Bones can become brittle which could mean you are more at risk of fractures or brakes.

Muscles and joints can become weaker

Body fluids & kidneys

If you are not drinking enough water or fluids this can result in dehydration and possibly kidney failure

Chemical imbalances in the body (minerals etc)caused by dehydration or induced vomiting and laxatives can affect the heart and other major organs.

Intestines & stomach

Bloating, constipation, irregular bowel movements, diarrheal and abdominal cramps can be caused by irregular eating and laxative misuse.

Binging can cause damage to the stomach. Irregular eating can cause delayed emptying of the stomach leading to bloating and feeling uncomfortable after eating.

Hormones

Hormones stop being produced which in girls cause their periods to stop compromising abilities to have children later in life.

In boys it reduces testosterone levels which could stunt growth, voice breaking, muscle development.

Last updated: 7 June, 2018