Long Term Effects of Bulimia

Long Term Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder in which individuals engage in a harmful cycle of binge eating followed by compensatory purging. During one such binge eating episode, a person feels a loss of control as they consume a large amount of food over a short time period. And during a purge session, someone engages in compensatory behaviors such as induced vomiting or misusing tools such as laxatives or enemas in an attempt to “undo” the effects of their binge eating episode. Today, we are going to discuss the long term effects of bulimia nervosa. 

Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

There are various physical signs to look out for that may suggest someone is suffering from bulimia nervosa, such as:

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

Behaviors and Emotional Signs Linked to Bulimia Nervosa

There are also behaviors and emotional signs that could hint someone is struggling with bulimia. This include:

  • 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
  • Behaviors and attitudes that suggest dieting, weight loss, and food control are a major concern
  • Frequent dieting
  • Discomfort eating in front of others
  • Skipping meals 
  • Taking small portions during meals
  • Food rituals, such as excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch, and only eating a type of food or food group
  • Major mood swings
  • Social withdrawal
  • Withdrawing from usual activities
  • Stealing food
  • Using excessive amounts of mints, gum, and/or mouthwash
  • Creating a schedule to allow time to binge eat and purge
  • Hoarding food in odd places
  • Drinking water or non-caloric beverages in excess
  • Hiding the body by wearing baggy clothing
  • Having secret, recurrent binge eating episodes
  • 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
  • Maintaining an excessive, inflexible exercise routine

Health Consequences of Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa can take a major toll on someone’s health in the long term. The dangerous cycle of binge eating followed by purging that one embarks on can wreak havoc on not only their digestive system, but also other organ systems. This can culminate in electrolyte (and chemical) imbalances as well as cardiac failure that can result in sudden death. This highlights how important it is to intervene early and find the right treatment plan. 

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 as well. 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.

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