Are eating disorders serious?

Eating disorders are very serious. If you have an eating disorder, you may not be able to control how little or how much you eat. Although they are sometimes seen as trivial disorders, they are very serious and can result in long-lasting damage to your body or even death. It is important for you to get help, such as therapy, as soon as possible if you suspect that you or a loved one has an eating disorder.

Karen Diaz
Nutrition & Dietetics
Eating disorders are serious and life threatening.  They need ongoing treatment with a medical provider, therapist, psychiatrist, and dietitian if medically cleared.  If someone is medically unstable due to low body weight, abnormal labs, excessive purging, laxative, diuretic use, or other reasons they may need a residential or inpatient program. 

If you know someone struggling with an eating disorder, you can and should encourage them to seek treatment but unfortunately unless they are a minor they need to be ready to take that step.  There are many forms of eating disorders:  anorexia nervosa, bulimia, diabulmia, binge eating disorder, and eating disorder NOS (not other specified) which can be a mix of symptoms.  Although it is getting more attention, I find it is still misunderstood by many people and there is not enough financial support with insurance companies in providing adequate length of care.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Eating disorders are very, very serious. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders at about 20%. There are physical and psychological consequences to eating disorders that can last a lifetime if not professionally treated. If you are not sure if you have an eating disorder you should have a screening by a psychologist who specializes in treating EDs and work with a specializing Registered Dietitian.

Alberta Scruggs
Nutrition & Dietetics

Eating disorders are quite serious and require a team of professionals to evaluate and monitor the psychological and physical problems associated with the condition. A person with an “eating disorder” is emotionally weak and physically unstable. They are slowly killing themselves, whether they are struggling with anorexia nervosa (Those who have an extreme fear in gaining weight and limit the amount they eat and exercise excessively), anorexia bulimia (Those who fear gaining weight, yet secretly eats large amounts of food within a short period of time. When done, they remove it from the body by taking laxatives or self-induced vomiting), binge eating disorder (Those who sporadically binge on large amounts of food in a short period of time until they are uncomfortably full. They do not purge), or the compulsive overeating (Those who often overweight and has an addiction to food.

Some conditions associated with eating disorders include:

  • Amenorrhea
  • Callused/Bruised Fingers
  • Dehydration / Electrolyte Inbalance
  • Gastrointestinal Bleeding
  • Iron Deficiency Anemia
  • Dental Problems / Gum Disease
  • Muscle Atrophy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Vitamin / Mineral Deficiency


Vicki Berkus, MD
Eating disorders can be life threatening and more people die from eating disorders than any other mental health problem. People with anorexia can restrict their food intake to the point that the body starts to shut down. The immune system, reproductive system are minimized while the body works to keep the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver functioning. People loose the ability to make good decisions. A person who is bulimic can vomit to the point that their fluid balance is affected and their electrolytes are abnormal. They may have seizures or pass out. If they are compulsively exercising, they may develop bones that are osteopenic and lead to fractures. We already know that obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease and joint degeneration.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics
Eating disorders are very real and serious. It can affect someone's life; these are some symptoms that may develop over time: thinning of the bones, severe constipation, low blood pressure, brittle hair, anemia, brain damage and multiorgan failure. If you or someone you know have an eating disorder, please seek treatment.
Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics

Absolutely! Eating disorders should be considered as serious as any other medical condition and would suggest seeking a physician if there is a possibility that treatment is needed. A registered dietitian should also be part of the treatment team.

Eating disorders are the most deadly of all psychiatric disorders, says Dr. Emmet R. Bishop, of NORMAL nonprofit. In this video, Dr. Bishop discusses the reasons this problem is so dangerous.

Because the consequences of eating disorders can be so severe, early diagnosis is crucial for lasting recovery. Eating disorders in general can disrupt physical and emotional growth in teenagers and can lead to premature osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and more susceptible to fracture. Additionally, the triad of osteoporosis, amenorrhea and disordered eating behaviors has the risk of leading to hormonal imbalances, which could also contribute to increased infertility and a higher risk of miscarriages.

Eating disorders can be fatal; in fact, they are the deadliest mental illness. If you think you may have an eating disorder, you should seek treatment immediately. The sooner you recognize there is an issue and choose to seek treatment, the greater your chances are for lasting recovery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.