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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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Effects of eating disorders on your health

Conditions like bulimia nervosa (BN), anorexia nervosa (AN), binge eating disorder (BED), and other eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses that affect all aspects of a person’s health, including their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The eating behaviors involved in these conditions can cause several side effects that can be equally dangerous.

Learning about various eating disorder side effects can help you or a loved one better understand what's happening physically, mentally, and emotionally. And it may help someone better understand the need to seek help for these conditions before it's too late.

Luckily, there are treatments available not just for eating disorders but for the side effects of eating disorders, including the long-term effects of eating disorders.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
January 17, 2024
January 17, 2024
Eating disorder complications
In this article

Common side effects of eating disorders

Different types of eating disorders have different types of impacts and can manifest in many different ways. Similarly, the effects of eating disorders on the body may vary from person to person. However, despite these differences, all side effects of eating disorders are something that should be treated with concern and proper care.

Get help for an eating disorder from the comfort of your own home or wherever you are.

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While some eating disorders impact mental health, there are also many physical effects of eating disorders. Below are some of the more common—and concerning—eating disorder symptoms.

Neurological system
Cardiovascular system
Gastrointestinal system
Endocrine system

Other effects of eating disorders

The side effects of eating disorders can manifest in several other ways, including:1,6

  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Dry skin, brittle hair and nails, and hair loss
  • Lanugo hai—the growth of fine, downy hair to conserve warmth during periods of malnutrition
  • Kidney failure due to severe, prolonged dehydration
  • Anemia from a lack of red blood cells and/or iron in the diet, which causes fatigue, shortness of breath, and weakness
  • Reduced immune function
  • Oral health issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems as a result of self-induced vomiting

Practicing healthy eating habits and receiving proper mental health treatment are both essential for recovering from eating disorders and the potential long-term effects of eating disorders.

Finding help for the long-term effects of eating disorders

Eating disorders are complex conditions that affect both physical and mental well-being, but they don't have to be forever. Many different treatments can be used to help someone recover both their mental health and physical strength after struggling with an eating disorder.

And while seeking treatment early on has been connected to a greater likelihood of a full recovery, it’s never too late to start getting help. 

Help is available

At Within, our team of multidisciplinary experts can help address the various factors that work to develop and maintain long-term eating disorders, creating individual treatment plans for each patient to ensure they have the best possible route on the road to recovery.

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Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Health Consequences. (2018, February 22). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  2. Jáuregui-Garrido, B., & Jáuregui-Lobera, I. (2012). Sudden death in eating disorders. Vascular health and risk management, 8, 91–98.
  3. Sardar, M. R., Greway, A., DeAngelis, M., Tysko, E. O., Lehmann, S., Wohlstetter, M., & Patel, R. (2015). Cardiovascular Impact of Eating Disorders in Adults: A Single Center Experience and Literature Review. Heart Views: The Official Journal of the Gulf Heart Association, 16(3), 88–92.
  4. Santonicola, A., Gagliardi, M., Guarino, M. P. L., Siniscalchi, M., Ciacci, C., & Iovino, P. (2019). Eating Disorders and Gastrointestinal Diseases. Nutrients, 11(12), 3038.
  5. Miller, K. K. (2013). Endocrine effects of anorexia nervosa. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America, 42(3), 515–528.
  6. O’Brien, K. M., Whelan, D. R., Sandler, D. P., Hall, J. E., Weinberg, C. R. (2017). Predictors and long-term health outcomes of eating disorders. PLoS ONE, 12(7), e0181104.


Why are eating disorders dangerous?

Eating disorders can be dangerous for many reasons.

In and of themselves, the conditions are mental health disorders that can be difficult to overcome without appropriate care. And the disordered eating behaviors involved can lead to many physical issues.

If left untreated, the side effects of eating disorders can even be deadly. Treatment for these conditions exists, and it is never too late to seek help.

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Further reading

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