Anorexia nervosa is a multi-faceted condition, and the complications can be psychological, medical, and social. Anorexia treatment is most effective when the family plays an active role in their loved one’s recovery. It is also critical to seek expert help. For families who want to see their loved one find healing and wellness, partnering with treatment professionals and committing to the long-term recovery process is the best possible course of action.

Family counseling for eating disorder

Psychological Complications of Anorexia

For those battling anorexia, the psychological complications are significant. To friends and family, it is hard to understand why a person may refuse to eat or perceive herself as “fat” when she is painfully thin. Anorexia is firmly rooted in erroneous psychological beliefs that may be aggravated by physical damage to the body, as well as developmental conditions and imbalances that may have preceded the onset of the disorder or emerged because of it. One thing is certain: Anorexia is a complicated disorder, which makes it difficult to treat, even in a professional setting. The addition of substance use and other mental health conditions compound this. However, persistence and patience can go a long way in the treatment of this disorder.

According to The American Journal of Medicine, about half of adolescents suffering from anorexia have a co-occurring mental health condition. Mood and anxiety disorders are prevalent among this population, matching the severity of the eating disorder. Individuals with anorexia also have increased risk of suicide due to the psychological complications of the condition.

Medical Complications of Anorexia

Medical complications of anorexia are part of what makes this condition devastating and hard to treat. Ongoing starvation practices can have a damaging effect on the body’s systems, also affecting mental health due to chemical imbalances and poor physiological functioning. Here are some of the medical issues that an individual with anorexia may experience:

  • Increased risk of cardiac arrest
  • Incidents of coughing with eating or a history of aspiration pneumonia
  • Slowed gastric emptying (which can cause nausea and bloating)
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  • Cardiac structure abnormalities
  • Risk of lung collapse
  • Anemia
  • Suppressed immune response
  • Osteoporosis
  • Amenorrhea
  • Hypoglycemia

Some of these conditions resolve as the individual gains appropriate weight during the recovery process. Damage to tissues and organs as a result of this condition may persist or take a longer time to heal. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, nearly 1% of American women will suffer from anorexia in their lifetime. It’s important for families who detect disordered eating habits in a loved one to know the warning signs of an eating disorder. While the causes can vary, the development of anorexia is dependent on genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and personality traits.

Social Complications of Anorexia

Anorexia’s social impact is great.  Anorexic individuals are highly sensitive to social and cultural perceptions of beauty and thinness. This leads to body image distortion and an inability to perceive normal weight as healthy. Anorexia is influenced by genetic factors (up to 84%) and individuals often have perfectionistic personality traits. The desire to keep the disorder secret so the unhealthy behaviors can continue leads to social complications. Withdrawal from friends and family is common.

How to Get Help

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality of any psychiatric disorder, but there is help available. One of the most beneficial aspects of treatment for anorexia involves the family. Research shows that family work has a positive impact for the individual’s recovery. This seems to indicate that just as negative social influence exacerbates the disease, positive social influence and therapeutic alliance among family, the individual, and treatment professionals can facilitate recovery. Families can be equipped to create and sustain sympathetic boundaries that will allow the individual to receive support but also move away from unhealthy behaviors. 

The Meadows Ranch Fast Facts:

  • We take patients from 11 years old to 88, but 16-33 is the average patient age.
  • Our campus offers separate treatment for women and girls.
  • We offer inpatient, residential, and partial-hospitalization levels of care.
  • Length of stay varies for each patient according to their unique needs, but most average between 45-60 days.
  • While the majority of our patients are diagnosed with either anorexia or bulimia, at any given time, approximately 20% of our population are dealing with binge eating disorder.
  • We can take patients who are at 70% of their ideal body weight, which is fairly low (equating to a BMI of a 15 or 16).


Get Answers to Your Questions

If you or a loved one is suffering from anorexia, contact us today. Our compassionate team of experienced treatment professionals understands the complex nature of this condition. Our program is designed to treat anorexia and any co-occurring mental health conditions that could hinder recovery. We want to partner with you to enable healing of the mind, body, and spirit. While we don’t believe there are any shortcuts to recovery, we can equip you with the tools you need to attain lasting wellness. Talk to us today to learn more about anorexia treatment at The Meadows Ranch. 

Call 866-390-5100