How Do Eating Disorders Affect the Brain?

Eating disorders affect more people than many expect and the results can be seen in more than weight itself.

Extreme weight loss. Brittle nails. Dry skin. Dehydration. Constipation. Fatigue. Insomnia. Low blood pressure. Thinning hair. Dizziness. Fainting.  Many of the signs and symptoms shown by eating disorders are associated with the human body.

But the body isn’t the only thing that can show signs and symptoms.

Did you know that the mind can also be affected?

Impact on the Brain

While the most talked-about signs and symptoms of eating disorders deal with the human body, eating disorders are actually known to affect the mind first. The physical effects follow shortly after.

Here are some of the common effects of eating disorders on the brain:

Anxiety

Eating disorders can increase the risk of anxiety. On the other hand, anxiety is also known to trigger disordered eating behaviors as a coping technique, which means it can be difficult to determine what actually came first.

Depression

Depression symptoms in the case of eating disorders are very similar to that of anxiety. Eating disorders can also increase depression, and just like anxiety, depression can also lead to disordered eating as a way to cope with depression.

Difficulty Concentrating

The restriction of food means that the body and brain aren’t receiving the necessary nutrients they need to function properly. Concentration problems are a common occurrence when the body can’t perform at its best, which can make things like school or work even more difficult for someone struggling with an eating disorder.

The concentration issues can also lead to an increased dependence on their eating disorder as a way for them to feel like they’re in control of something.

Disordered Thought Patterns

It takes a large amount of effort to redirect thoughts that individuals suffering from an eating disorder can experience. In treatment, an individual can learn mindfulness techniques that can help them overcome their eating disorder and start thinking positively again.

Distorted Self-Perception

Usually, eating disorders cause a disordered self-perfection. Someone may look in the mirror and view themselves as a completely different person. Even in photographs, they may have a hard time actually seeing themselves.

This disordered self-perception can actually worsen the disordered thought patterns that are already affecting the brain.

Emotional Dysregulation

Eating disorders can make it difficult for someone to control their emotions. Emotional dysregulation can cause sudden outbursts. These outbursts can put a strain on existing relationships and also cause more feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

Dysfunctional Behaviors

The disordered thoughts experienced can also bring on the urge to engage in dysfunctional behaviors. At first, these types of behaviors may seem relaxing, but over time, this will only lead to more stressors.

Guilt

Hiding or skipping meals. Binging and purging. Constantly obsessing over mirrors or scales. These habits associated with eating disorders can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings can spiral into an individual withdrawing or isolating themselves to hide their habits or avoid any confrontation.

Seeking Treatment for Eating Disorders

When an eating disorder is left untreated, it can lead to more signs and symptoms in the body as well as the mind. Eating disorders can take a huge toll on both the mind and body. Together, an individual can experience a sharp decline until they seek proper treatment.

Diet and nutrition are intertwined with your mental health. We can help you work through your emotions around food. We also create a plan, develop strategies, and make suggestions so you can succeed.

Ready to reach your full potential? We can help you get there. Contact us to set up a consultation.

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