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Physical and psychological effects:
The effects of eating disorders on a person's physical and emotional well-being can be devastating, and in some cases, deadly. Skaters should note that this also means their performance on the ice will be adversely affected, perhaps to the point where they will never be able to skate again. Plain and simple: it's just not worth it.
Restrictive or erratic eating patterns can cause more than just weight loss. Metabolic difficulties are almost certain, even if weight loss is NOT dramatic. Blood pressure and heart rate will fall, setting a person up for heart or kidney failure. The person may experience dizzy or fainting spells, and because they have little insulation and/or poor circulation, will constantly feel cold. Hair on the head begins to fall out while more hair grows on the rest of the body (called lanugo).
In females, the menstrual cycle may cease due to plummeting estrogen levels. This may later lead to osteoporosis (which is irreversible). Without menstrual periods, women are also at a greater risk of developing ovarian cysts or other problems with the reproductive system; perhaps even to the point of never being able to have children.
Especially if a person does not get enough the proper nutrition, many other serious consequences may result. Lack of fat in the diet means that the body cannot absorb certain vitamins, and depending on what foods are being cut out of a person's diet, they may not even be getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need to begin with.
Forced vomiting causes electrolyte imbalances, which can easily lead to life-threatening heart-related problems. The acid in vomit can cause the enamel of teeth to wear down, That same acid also eats away at the lining of the esophagus and may cause gastric rupture. In other words, immediate death.
Many patients who frequently force themselves to vomit after meals may be unable to eat without a gag reflex. G.E.R.D., or Gastro-Esophogal Reflux Disease, is another potential consequence of frequent purging. Vomiting can also cause severe dehydration, leading to abnormally low blood pressure and increased risk of fainting.
Syrup of ipecac, a drug sometimes used to induce vomiting in emergency situations, is sometimes abused by eating disorder patients. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous methods of all. Ipecac is a POISON, and may cause permanent damage to the heart or other organs. Karen Carpenter died, WHILE IN RECOVERY, from complications related to her past use of ipecac syrup.
Other "purging" methods
Diuretics, or water pills, can easily cause electrolyte imbalances much in the same way as forced vomiting, and the risk of dehydration and kidney damage is even greater. Laxative abuse also causes dehydration, and may also cause permanent damage to the bowels. A person may actually become dependent on laxatives if they abuse them for a long period of time. Not only are the stimulants addicting, but soon the bowels will not be able to move without them.
The worst part about laxatives and diuretics is that they do not even really cause weight loss... all you are losing is water weight, which is quickly regained (and then some). Incidentally, the body's metabolism decreases when it is dehydrated... so I hope this shows just how REALLY "not worth it" diuretics and laxatives are.
Even "compulsive exercisers" are not off the hook. Excessive exercise may take its toll on a person's body as well, particularly if the person is already malnourished. Stress fractures are very common in people with eating disorders because the danger of osteoporosis is heightened by malnutrition.
Binge eating itself, without the terrible compensatory methods, can also do damage. Large binges can cause the stomach to stretch, possibly even to the point of literally bursting. Chronic binge eating may also lead to weight gain, regardless of whether or not these binges are "compensated" for.
Some people with binge eating disorder may even become obese, and develop many of the problems which acompany obesity, including high blood pressure, diabetes, menstrual troubles, cardiovascular disease, sleeping disturbances such as sleep apnea, and arthritis.
Psychological and psychosocial effects
The psychological effects of eating disorders are nearly as devastating as the physical ones. The very nature of eating disorders demand that the behaviors be carried out in secret. Thus the person with an ED becomes more withdrawn and avoidant of social situations, particularly those that involve food. Lack of social interaction, coupled with poor nutrition, can not only exacerbate pre-existing depression and anxiety, but they can also cause it in individuals who previously had no such problems. "Meaningful relationships and eating disorders are mutually exclusive," says one of my friends. And she is absolutely right.