Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa

Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa


Bulimia nervosa is a serious type of eating disorder in which individuals engage in a harmful, potentially-fatal cycle of binge eating followed by purging. During a binge eating episode, an individual will feel out of control as they consume a large amount of food over a relatively short amount of time. And during a purge, someone will engage in compensatory behaviors aimed to “erase” the effects of a recent binge eating episode; they may do so by forcing themselves to vomit or misuse laxatives, enemas, and/or diuretics. 


Health Consequences of Bulimia

A person’s entire digestive system can be affected by the dangerous cycle of binge eating and purging characteristic of bulimia nervosa. Additionally, this cycle may lead to chemical and electrolyte imbalances that affect the cardiac system as well as the functioning of other major organs. Electrolyte imbalances and cardiac failure can lead to sudden death, pointing to the importance of early intervention and finding the appropriate treatment. 


Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Physical signs that may suggest someone is struggling with bulimia nervosa include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Other non-specific gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux or constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Yellow skin from eating lots of carrots
  • Thinning of hair on the head
  • Bloating from fluid retention
  • Cuts and/or calluses across the tops of finger joints from induced vomiting
  • Sleep issues
  • Dental issues, such as enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, cavities, and discoloration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Dizziness
  • fainting/syncope
  • Poor healing of wounds
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Dry, brittle nails
  • Swelling around the salivary glands
  • Lanugo, or fine hair all over the body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet
  • Swollen feet
  • Abnormal laboratory and blood work findings, such as low hormone levels, anemia, slow heart rate, low blood cell counts, low potassium


Behaviors and Emotional Signs Linked to Bulimia Nervosa

There are also a variety of behaviors and emotional signs that may point to bulimia, such as:

  • Evidence of binge eating, such as the presence of many empty containers and wrappers or the disappearance of large amounts of food during a short period of time
  • Evidence of purging, such as the presence of laxatives and diuretics wrappers and packages, signs and/or smells of throwing up, and frequently using the bathroom after eating
  • Using excessive amounts of mints, gum, and/or mouthwash
  • Creating a schedule to allow time to binge eat and purge
  • Frequent dieting
  • Major mood swings
  • Stealing food
  • Hoarding food in odd places
  • Drinking water or non-caloric beverages in excess
  • Hiding the body by wearing baggy clothing
  • Behaviors and attitudes that suggest dieting, weight loss, and food control are a major concern
  • Having secret, recurrent binge eating episodes
  • Discomfort eating in front of others
  • Skipping meals 
  • Taking small portions during meals
  • New food practices or fad dieting
  • Frequently looking in the mirror for perceived appearance flaws
  • Displaying major concern with one’s shape and body weight
  • Food rituals, such as excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch, and only eating a type of food or food group
  • Social withdrawal
  • Withdrawing from usual activities
  • Maintaining an excessive, inflexible exercise routine


How to Get the Help You Need

If you or a loved one is living with bulimia nervosa or another type of eating disorder, you may wish to contact an eating disorder hotline. While bulimia nervosa is a serious illness, it is, thankfully, treatable. If you find yourself in a crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to be put in contact with a properly trained individual. Additionally, we can help you here at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can reach us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

Scroll to Top