The impact that Anorexia has, not just on the individual diagnosed with the illness but on their families too, is vast, ranging from psychological, social, and physical ‘symptoms.’
An example of a psychological symptom that someone experiencing Anorexia might feel is a sense of being ‘out of control’ which is ironic, really, given that one of the biggest reasons why people develop eating disorders in the first instance is in pursuit of control.
Feeing ‘out of control’, as referenced above, can cause people to become trapped in a cycle of Anorexia, as they remain convinced that their eating disorder will provide them with the answers to all of their problems, when it will, in fact, do the opposite, causing them to feel even more out of control, as their mind becomes plagued down with obsessive thoughts, preoccupations, and compulsive behaviours, all of which make it virtually impossible for one to make rational/logical decisions.
Feeling out of control is not just an emotion experienced by people with Anorexia, either, it is also a common symptom felt by the persons loved ones, who tend to feel ‘hopeless’, and as though nothing they can do or say will help their loved one to recover.
Another common psychological symptom experienced by people with Anorexia, is anxiety and self-doubt, as well as guilt and shame. Again, these feelings are not exclusive to those diagnosed with Anorexia, for they are also often experienced by the loved ones of people with Anorexia, too. This is because an individual’s loved ones might feel somehow ‘to blame’ for their eating disorder, due to things that might have happened in their childhood, for example.
Combined with the above feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, guilt, and shame, paranoia in people with Anorexia can cause them to experience even further psychological distress, as they are at risk of becoming alienated, thus contributing to them experiencing heightened feelings of loneliness as a result.
There are also several social impacts of Anorexia, on both the individual sufferer and their loved ones, too.
An example of a social impact of Anorexia is the breakdown of relationships. This can occur due to the social withdrawal that people with Anorexia tend to go through, a result of their negative emotions making them feel unable to interact with ‘the outside world’ and unwilling to engage in their previous hobbies and interests. Because of this, people with Anorexia might avoid contact with their loved ones and take part in fewer social activities, with the social activities that they do partake in being fuelled by negative feelings of irritability, which can be taken personally by people who do not fully understand their illness, thus leading to potential conflict arising.
Conflict can also arise within families, whereby arguments might be triggered by disagreements surrounding food, weight, and treatment, for example. Again, this can lead to the breakdown of relationships.
If left untreated, eating disorders can, and do, cause irreversible physical damage and, in extreme cases, death, in those suffering from the illness. How so? Through the weakening of one’s immune system, which can adversely impact upon every cell, tissue, and organ within the body.
Just some of the major physical effects of Anorexia are; an irregular heartbeat which can lead to cardiac arrest and death, kidney damage, liver damage, loss of muscle mass, permanent loss of bone mass (osteopenia/osteoporosis) which can cause fractures due to fragile bones and joints, disruption of the menstrual cycle which can lead to infertility, gastric distress/chronic constipation, delayed or permanently stunted growth due to malnutrition, poor circulation causing extremely cold hands and feet, excess hair on body (to keep warm), dry skin, disruption of bodies fluid/mineral balance (electrolyte imbalance and loss of potassium can be fatal), fainting spells, seizures, sleep disruption, and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia.)