What Are Some Bulimia Warning Signs?

What Are Some Bulimia Warning Signs?

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterized by sufferers engaging in a dangerous cycle of binge eating and compensatory purging that can eventually prove fatal. During a binge eating session, someone will eat a large amount of food over a relatively short period of time as they feel a loss of control. The purging session that follows will tend to involve forcing oneself to vomit or misusing enemas or laxatives in an attempt to “undo” the effects of the recent eating binge. 

Emotional Signs and Behaviors Associated with Bulimia Nervosa

There are a range of emotional signs and behaviors that may 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
  • Using excessive amounts of mints, gum, and/or mouthwash
  • 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
  • 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
  • Creating a schedule to allow time to binge eat and purge
  • Frequent dieting
  • Major mood swings
  • Hoarding food in odd places
  • Drinking water or non-caloric beverages in excess
  • Hiding the body by wearing baggy clothing
  • Stealing food
  • Maintaining an excessive, inflexible exercise routine
  • Behaviors and attitudes that suggest dieting, weight loss, and food control are a major concern
  • Having secret, recurrent binge eating episodes
  • Displaying major concern with one’s shape and body weight

Physical Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

There are also physical signs that could hing that someone is dealing with bulimia nervosa, such as:

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

Health Consequences of Bulimia

The dangerous cycle of bingeing and purging associated with bulimia can have a profound effect on someone’s digestive system and ultimately lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances. These, in turn, can impair the functioning of major organs, including the heart. Furthermore, electrolyte imbalances and cardiac arrest can suddenly take someone’s life, highlighting the importance of intervening early and figuring out what treatment approach is best for someone. 

Finding Help

One way to get help is by reaching out to an eating disorder hotline; you can also text “NEDA” to 741-741 to be put in touch with a trained individual during a time of crisis. There are also many treatment centers across the United States you may wish to reach out to. 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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