LongTerm Psychological and Physiological Effects of Anorexia Nervosa. Emma Salisbury
Anorexia Nervosa, according to the MerriamWebster dictionary, is “a serious eating disorder primarily of young women in their teens and early twenties that is characterized especially by a pathological fear of weight gain leading to faulty eating patterns, malnutrition, and usually excessive weight loss.” According to Sullivan (1995), Anorexia Nervosa is the most deadly mental illness, killing between five percent and twenty percent of those who develop it. Those who struggle with Anorexia are plagued by a perception of themselves as overweight and even obese, while they are in fact very underweight. This perception leads people with Anorexia to starve themselves while exercising vigorously in order to keep shedding pounds. Anorexia Nervosa is correlated strongly with an incorrect body image and faulty self concept, and is classified as a mental illness. While Anorexia Nervosa’s classification is psychological, its is often manifested in physiological effects to the bones, brain and heart as well as such psychological effects as poor emotional processing, depression and lasting body dysmorphism.
Anorexia Nervosa has many serious physiological effects. The main physiological areas this paper will be focusing on are the effects on the bones, heart, and brain. Halvorsen, Platou, and Høiseth found that those who had suffered from an eating disorder in adolescence had a signiﬁcantly reduced bonemass density in the spine eight years afterwards, even if they had recovered from their eating disorder (2012). Those who have suffered from Anorexia are at a much higher risk for osteoporosis and permanent loss of bone density overall. Halvorsen, Platou, and Høiseth found that even if the person who struggles with Anorexia recovers from it at an early age, as the person grows older she is much more likely to suffer from severe fractures and bone loss than those who have never suffered from Anorexia (2012).
One of the most dangerous physical effects of Anorexia is the damage done to the heart. According to a study by Oflaz et al. (2013), a strong association was found between myocardial fibrosis and Anorexia Nervosa. Because those who have Anorexia do not receive proper nutrition, their heart does not obtain the proper energy and food to keep functioning properly (Feature, n.d.). However, those with Anorexia still often exercise for extreme amounts of time in order to continue to lose ever more weight. Therefore, their hearts must work very hard without being given enough food and nutrients, resulting in severe damage to the heart, which causes scarring. The scar tissue causes the heart to be less effective at pumping blood, because the scar tissue restricts the expansion of the heart muscles (Holmes, Nunez & Covell, 1997). In turn, the heart must work even harder because it cannot pump a normal amount of blood, bringing about even more damage and more scarring. Eventually, this cycle will lead to heart failure, as the heart is scarred and damaged beyond repair and can no longer put up with the strenuous workload. While this cycle can be stopped at any time in order to prevent further damage, the myocardial scar tissue never goes away and the damage to the heart cannot be undone.
Another body system that Anorexia affects in a potentially irreversible manner is the brain. According to a study by Mühlau et al., those who had recovered from Anorexia Nervosa had a globally reduced volume of grey matter in their brains than those who had never had Anorexia. According to this study, “regionspecific gray matter loss in the anterior cingulate cortex is directly ...
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