Did You Know Anorexia Can be a Chronic Condition?

Trigger warning: this blog post discusses eating disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a particularly difficult mental illness to treat. People suffering from anorexia, specifically prolonged or chronic anorexia, have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness and often have a markedly reduced life expectancy.

The onset of anorexia is typically from a young age with many adults dying in their 30s. Patients who continue to suffer from anorexia are often suffer multiple medical complications, are under- or unemployed, and have repeated admissions to general and specialist medical facilities.

The earlier someone with an eating disorder receives treatment, the better the chances are that they recover. However, it’s not just that some people don’t know they have a problem, but they just don’t have access to treatments or therapies to assist them to be able to become healthy. It’s important to remember that even though you or a loved one may be experiencing chronic anorexia, it’s never too late to get help.

For some, they could have received treatment and recovered to healthy body image and eating habits, but experience a relapse or multiple resurfacing of the illness throughout their lives. For many who have “recovered” it takes a lot of consistent and even daily mental, physical, and emotional self-care to ensure they don’t delve back into eating disorder behaviours. If you are experiencing a relapse it’s important to remember to not be too hard on yourself, remember that you’ve been able to conquer this before, and reach out for help.

Long term effects of Anorexia Nervosa

Those with chronic anorexia are at risk of mental and physical long-term effects which can damage their bodies and even destroy relationships.

Psychological Effects

Patients who suffer from anorexia are at high risk for other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Patients with anorexia are also at risk for suicidal behaviour or attempts. According to Time Magazine studies show the risk of death by suicide by women with anorexia is 57 times higher than that of other women.

Physical Effects

  • Your Heart: heart disease is the major cause of people with anorexia because of the danger of a lack of balance of necessary minerals which help to dissolve bodily fluids, and the starvation and dehydration that comes with an eating disorder throughs these out of balance.
  • Your Bones: 90 percent of women with anorexia experience Osteopenia, a loss of bone calcium, and up to 40 percent of anorexic people also face osteoporosis, an advanced loss of bone density. Both are irreversible complications.
  • Your Reproductive System: women and girls often with anorexia often experience irregular periods or loss of periods all together. There can also be later complications when trying to conceive and for people with anorexia who are pregnant. Boys who are anorexic may have lower levels of testosterone which leads to lower bone density and stunted growth.
  • Your Blood: those with anorexia experience anemia and low vitamin B12 levels
  • Your Neurological System: people with anorexia often have difficulty concentrating, and in severe cases can experience seizures, disordered thinking, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Your Organs: in the late stages of severe anorexia organs begins to shut down

Recovery is possible

If you are experiencing chronic anorexia, it might feel like an insurmountable challenge to try to recover. An eating disorder does not have one particular cause or reason, and it takes a combination of treatments -- not just weight gain-- to ensure recovery. Medical interventions, medications, psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, family therapy, rehabilitation programs are all resources for you to use to overcome your anorexia. Also if you are experiencing anorexia a great first step is to talk to your doctor.

Here is a list of organizations and resources across Canada for you to find help for your anorexia:

National Eating Disorder Information Centre ……….1-866-633-4220
Looking Glass Residence ………. (604) 314-0548 or 1-888-980-5874
Clinique Baca ………. (514) 544-2323
The Kyla Fox Centre ………. (416) 518-0440
WaterStone Clinic various locations and numbers
CAMH ………. 1-800-463-6273
Sheena’s Place ………. (416) 927-8900
Eating Disorders Foundation of Canada ………. (519) 858-5111
Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA) ………. 519-969-2112
National Initiative For Eating Disorders

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