Text Link

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Learn more about the results we get at Within

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

What are the long term effects of anorexia nervosa?

In individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), some may experience its effects in the long term.

Some of those effects include low blood pressure, anemia, poor circulation, gastrointestinal (GI) problems, and more. It is important to understand how anorexia might be contributing to these difficulties.

Our program can help

86% of our patients reported an improved quality of life post treatment.

How we do it

Last updated on 
April 4, 2023
April 7, 2023
Long-term effects of anorexia
In this article

1. Heart and blood vessels

With anorexia nervosa, some people may experience an irregular heartbeat, slow heart rate, and low blood pressure. In addition, some may experience poor circulation, anemia, and a constant feeling of being cold.1,2 

When the body is starving, it will eventually begin to break down muscle tissue, including cardiac muscle, which makes up the heart. (2) This contributes to high rates of cardiac problems and sudden cardiac death in people with AN.3

2. Loss of menstrual cycle and fertility

For those who menstruate, absent or irregular periods often result from anorexia nervosa.2,3 This occurs due to hormonal changes and the body’s attempts to conserve energy while experiencing malnutrition. It is important to note that some people with AN will continue having periods while engaging in severe eating disorder behaviors, and this is no longer part of the DSM criteria for an anorexia nervosa diagnosis.4

Most people who lose their periods due to AN will begin to menstruate regularly again after they begin eating adequately and make progress in recovery. It is usually possible to get pregnant and give birth after recovering, but challenges with conception and pregnancy complications are more common in people with a history of AN than those without.2 Some people may also experience an irreversible loss of fertility due to suffering from AN. 

People who do not menstruate can also experience significant hormonal disruptions,3 including low testosterone and reduced bone density as a result of anorexia nervosa. In people of all genders, loss of bone mineral density due to hormonal changes from malnutrition can lead to osteoporosis, which may be irreversible. (2)


3. Your GI tract

A variety of gastrointestinal complications can result from anorexia nervosa, including constipation, gastroparesis, liver disease, bloating, abdominal pain, and stomach ulcers.3 In addition, someone with anorexia nervosa may already have GI issues prior to dealing with their eating disorder. Most of these problems develop due to reduced energy availability causing digestion to slow down and the lack of nutrients necessary for cellular functions and repairs. 

Many people in recovery from AN experience digestive issues during the refeeding and recovery process as the body adjusts to processing more food and restoring digestive speed and function.5 Most people will experience a reduction in digestive issues as they continue to eat consistently and adequately and their bodies readjust. In some cases, digestive problems may persist after recovery.5

4. Weakness, lack of energy, and fatigue

It is common for people with anorexia nervosa to experience weakness, lack of energy, and fatigue.1 There are multiple factors that can contribute to this, including anemia, vitamin deficiencies, overall inadequate energy intake (resulting in decreased metabolic rate), low body weight, and breakdown of muscle tissue during starvation.3

Eating disorder treatment is available

Using a multi-disciplinary perspective approach is one of the best things you can do to recover from anorexia nervosa and reverse as many of the long-term effects as possible. If you are able, it is beneficial to work with a team made up of dietitians, psychologists, and physicians who focus on helping those with eating disorders and who will work with you to navigate the mental and physical health effects of the eating disorder.

Working with a multidisciplinary anorexia treatment team can help to identify specific nutritional deficiencies and other abnormal lab values which may be contributing to symptoms of a serious eating disorder. While vitamins and other supplements can be a helpful piece of treatment, increasing strength and energy is dependent on your food intake. You need to eat enough food to meet the body's needs, restore metabolic functions, and enable cellular damage that occurs during the eating disorder to be repaired.6,7 This is all part of weight restoration and learning to be ok with gaining weight.

In cases of severe anorexia nervosa, inpatient treatment options should be considered. Your treatment team will be able to advise you of the best course of action.

Support groups

The mental health community is broad and can be extremely helpful when recovering from an eating disorder.

There may be long-term effects of anorexia after recovery, but healing is possible. Reaching out for support can be an important first step to recovering from this disorder.

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. Giovinazzo, S., Sukkar, S. G., Rosa, G. M., Zappi, A., Bezante, G. P., Balbi, M., & Brunelli, C. (2019). Anorexia nervosa and heart disease: a systematic review. Eating and weight disorders, 24(2), 199–207. 
  2. Ekern, B. (2021, February 18). Long term & short term consequences of anorexia. Eating Disorder Hope. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  3. Cost, J., Krantz, M. J., & Mehler, P. S. (2020, June 1). Medical complications of anorexia nervosa. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  4. Table 19, DSM-IV to DSM-5 anorexia nervosa comparison - DSM-5 changes. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  5. Mack, I., Cuntz, U., Grämer, C., Niedermaier, S., Pohl, C., Schwiertz, A., Zimmermann, K., Zipfel, S., Enck, P., & Penders, J. (2016, May 27). Weight gain in anorexia nervosa does not ameliorate the faecal microbiota, branched chain fatty acid profiles and gastrointestinal complaints. Nature News. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  6. Castro, J., Deulofeu, R., Gila, A., Puig, J., & Toro, J. (2004). Persistence of nutritional deficiencies after short-term weight recovery in adolescents with anorexia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35(2), 169–178. 
  7. Eating Disorders. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved March 30, 2023.


Further reading

Do I have anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder that may manifest differently in different people and can...

Fasting vs. anorexia

Fasting and intermittent fasting (IF) are popular methods of energy consumption that limit eating to...

Self-help for anorexia nervosa

With its ability to significantly impact a person's psychological and physical health, anorexia nervosa...

What interventions are effective for individuals with anorexia nervosa?

If you have a friend or family member living with anorexia nervosa (AN), you are probably wondering how you...

The similarities between anorexia nervosa and orthorexia

Anorexia nervosa (AN) and orthorexia nervosa (ON) can often be confused with each other due to the similar...

Examining ARFID vs. anorexia

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and anorexia nervosa (AN) share...

Differences between anorexia and anorexia nervosa

People frequently use “anorexia” interchangeably with or as shorthand for “anorexia nervosa.” But the two...

How anorexia nervosa affects your mental health

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that involves a fixation on food, weight, and body image...

What is the restricting type of anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder, which involves an intense fear of gaining weight, a...

What is acute anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a dangerous mental health disorder that impacts the way people feel about their...

What causes anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a very serious eating disorder, second only to opioid use as the...

What are the long term effects of anorexia nervosa?

In individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), some may experience its effects in the...

The limitations of using BMI for anorexia diagnosis

The body mass index (BMI) is a calculation made by comparing someone's weight and height. It's sometimes...

The dangers of anorexiant diet pills

Anorexiant diet pills have increased dangers for those with an eating disorder. There...

Signs you need treatment for anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that can have many detrimental effects on someone's...

Signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious illness that may manifest in several ways...

Is anorexia genetic?

For decades, many assumed anorexia nervosa (AN) was a psychosocial illness...

Identifying anorexia risk factors

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) are complex psychiatric conditions that can have a serious...

Is anorexia a disease?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is not a disease. A disease is when there is a harmful change in...

How to help someone with anorexia nervosa

If you’ve found yourself on this page, it’s likely because someone in your life has anorexia nervosa (AN)...

How does anorexia nervosa develop?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder that involves caloric restriction...

The hidden characteristics of anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is one of the most widely-known types of eating disorders, but...

Harmful outcomes of the pro-ana movement

Imagine that there were websites that encouraged people not to get treatment for...

Examining the anorexia death rate

Eating disorders are routinely cited as being among the most lethal mental health...

Early warning signs of anorexia nervosa

Facing eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (AN) in your own life or that of a loved one can be a...

Can you have mild anorexia?

“Mild anorexia” is not currently a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical...

Can anorexia nervosa be cured?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious, and, unfortunately, sometimes deadly disorder. But...

Anorexia nervosa statistics: gender, race and socioeconomics

When examining anorexia statistics, or eating disorder rates in general, the results...

What is anorexia nervosa (AN)?

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder involving a severe limitation of food intake, intense fear of...

Anorexia in the transgender community

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a serious eating disorder involving severe caloric restriction...