Effects of Bulimia on the Skin

Effects of Bulimia on the Skin

Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder known for its harmful effects on the body and mind; in serious cases, the illness can be fatal, highlighting the importance of early intervention. People who suffer from bulimia find themselves in a dangerous cycle of binge eating followed by purging. A binge eating session involves someone consuming a large amount of food over a short period of time as they feel out of control. And a purging session involves attempting to “undo” the effects of binge eating through actions such as induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives and enemas.

Bulimia and the Skin

Healthline explains that bulimia can have a profound effect on the integumentary system, which covers the skin, nails, and hair. When someone purges by inducing vomiting or abusing laxatives, enemas, or diuretics, it is likely they will end up suffering from dehydration. Because of this dehydration, the body no longer has enough water to function properly, which could lead to:

  • Rough, scaly skin
  • Frizzy, dry hair
  • Brittle, dry nails
  • Thinning of the hair on the head

Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Other possible physical signs of bulimia nervosa that the National Eating Disorders Association says to look out for include:

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

Behaviors Linked to Bulimia Nervosa

There are also many behaviors and emotional signs that could suggest someone is suffering from bulimia nervosa, including:

  • 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
  • Major mood swings
  • Stealing food
  • New food practices or fad dieting
  • Social withdrawal
  • Withdrawing from usual activities
  • Using excessive amounts of mints, gum, and/or mouthwash
  • Having secret, recurrent binge eating episodes
  • Discomfort eating in front of others
  • Skipping meals 
  • Creating a schedule to allow time to binge eat and purge
  • Frequent 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
  • 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
  • Taking small portions during meals
  • Maintaining an excessive, inflexible exercise routine

Getting Help

Even though bulimia nervosa can cause serious damage to the body, it is a treatable illness. If you are looking for recovery groups in New York City and elsewhere in the United States, you can find resources at this link. You can also find support by contacting an eating disorder hotline. But if you are in a time of crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to be put in contact with someone trained to handle the situation.

Additionally, we are here to help you at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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