By Stephanie Elliot

There is much talk about how eating disorders affect a person’s well-being, her mental and emotional state of mind, but what are the effects an eating disorder has on the physical body? Let’s break it down:

Weight Loss: In some types of eating disorders, weight loss will be apparent; In anorexia nervosa, especially, as it is a form of starvation. But, as we know, eating disorders don’t always look the same. Someone who binges might weigh in range for their age, and some may also be overweight.

Hair and Nails: Because of lack of nutrition, hair and nails can become brittle and soft. Hair can break, nails can crack or split. Another defining aspect of anorexia specifically is that some who suffer from this disorder may see light peach fuzz appear on their bodies – most noticeably on arms and stomachs. This is called lanugo and, according to an article in Medical News Today, lanugo is the body’s way of warming up. For someone with anorexia nervosa who has lost a significant amount of body fat, it is a way for the body to protect itself and keep its temperature up.

Skin: Can become dry and translucent. Veins may appear. You may also break out because of the lack of necessary vitamins in the diet.

Teeth and Mouth: Gums may bleed, there may be gum disease, and the lack of calcium to the teeth may cause significant decay. Yellowing of the teeth and cavities might be present. If the person is bingeing and purging, the acid from the stomach from vomiting may cause teeth to decay and become brittle. Bad breath from vomiting and unhealthy eating habits can also occur.

Self-Image: Most people with eating disorders have a distorted idea of what their bodies actually look like. Particularly, teens with anorexia will see a completely different person in the mirror from what they actually look like. Perception of their body is extremely skewed.

Heart: Some people with eating disorders may have heart issues. An erratic heartbeat or accelerated heart rate may occur. In extreme cases, some may suffer cardiac arrest.

Bones: May become frail and easily break because of the lack of calcium in one’s diet.

Periods: Often when an eating disorder is present, one might skip or miss their period.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you love might have an eating disorder, you can contact NEDA, National Eating Disorders Association.

Their helpline is: Toll-Free Phone Number: 1-800-931-2237

Hours: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM (ET) Mon-Thurs; and 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (ET) Fri

For 24/7 crisis support, text ‘NEDA’ to 741741