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Complications of Anorexia

     The most severe and noticeable consequences of anorexia nervosa resemble those of starvation. The body reacts to the lack of food by becoming extremely thin, developing brittle hair and nails, dry skin, lowered pulse rate, cold intolerance, and constipation as well as occasional diarrhea. In addition, mild anemia, reduced muscle mass, loss of menstrual cycle and swelling of joints often accompany anorexia.

     Beyond experiencing the immediate effects of anorexia nervosa, individuals suffer long-term consequences throughout the life cycle, regardless of treatment. In addition to the risks of recurrence, malnutrition may cause irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. Lack of calcium places anorexics at increased risk for osteoporosis both during their illness and in later life. A majority of anorexics also have clinical depression while others suffer from anxiety, personality disorders or substance abuse, and many are at risk for suicide. Approximately 1 in 10 women afflicted with anorexia will die of starvation, cardiac arrest, or other medical complication, making its death rate among the highest for a psychiatric disease.

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