What Happens If an Eating Disorder Goes Untreated?

Having an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder is more than just troubling; it’s a serious disease which must not be left alone. Without treatment, according to some studies, the fatality rate for people with eating disorders can reach 20%. That’s why, if you or a loved one has received a diagnosis of an eating disorder, seeking out eating disorder treatment centers that can care for someone who has one of these illnesses is essential.  Despite a common misunderstanding, eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice but are serious medical conditions that can endanger a person’s life if allowed to continue.  Each major kind of eating disorder comes with different risks – let’s find out why each needs special treatment. 

Risks of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is the most dangerous mental health disorder, with a fatality rate higher than any other mental health disease, including major depression.  Anorexia nervosa is characterized by extreme thinness and restrictive eating.  In addition to the restriction of food intake, people with anorexia nervosa often engage in obsessive exercise, which can put incredible stress on the body.  Anorexia nervosa also comes with an extremely distorted body image – where they continue to see themselves as obese even when they are medically deemed underweight or even starving.   Someone with anorexia nervosa needs help in eating disorder treatment centers to avoid the possible risks associated with the illness.

People who have anorexia nervosa run the risk of death, brain damage, multiorgan failure, infertility, heart damage, anemia, osteoporosis, liver, and other organ damage, and indices a much higher rate of suicide than the general population. Other problems that can come with an anorexia nervosa diagnosis include drying and yellowing of the skin, brittle nails, and hair, constipation, constant fatigue, small, fine hairs growing all over the body (lanugo), reduced body temperature and feeling cold all the time, and lower blood pressure and lowered vital signs.

Risks of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is another severe mental health disease that comes with body image distortions and behavioral changes to reduce caloric intake.  Rather than avoiding food like with anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa will regularly engage in binge eating episodes, in which they eat large amounts of food in a short period, then counteract that intake by forcing themselves to vomit, taking excessive laxatives or diuretics, excessively exercising, or severely restricting their food afterward.  This purging eating disorder may lead to two or more of the above behaviors to compensate for their binge eating episodes.

Eating disorder recovery and treatment programs are essential for acute cases of bulimia nervosa, as it can be very unhealthy for sufferers.  In some cases, the loss of electrolytes caused by self-induced vomiting can be so extreme that they can have a stroke or heart attack from the disease.  Bulimia also comes with various ailments related to repeated vomiting, like sore throat, sore jaw and lymph nodes, and decaying teeth.  There may also be acid reflux and damage to the intestines.

Risks of Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder occurs when a person eats a large amount of food in a very short time – one way to consider it is like bulimia nervosa without the purging behavior.  The binge-eating episodes are normally kept secret because of the feelings of guilt and shame that come with the episodes, and because they are often publicly on a diet – in fact, they often try to lose weight with little or no success.   

Those who deal with binge eating disorder have many health risks that come with obesity.  They include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.  Without binge eating disorder treatment, the behaviors that lead to obesity can continue unabated, and the health risks compile.

Eating Disorders are Illnesses

Too often people with eating disorders are judged as making poor lifestyle choices, when in fact they are dealing with a serious mental disorder. They need truth without judgment and need help for their eating-disordered self. If treatment doesn’t happen, the consequences could be dire.

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