Managing Your Mental Health With Bulimia

Managing Your Mental Health With Bulimia

Uncertain times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can be unsettling for our mental health. We tend to feel anxiety from the fear of contracting the virus, loneliness from isolation due to the lockdown, and worry about the uncertainty of the situations, which results in mental instability.

During these times, the struggle is twice as hard for people suffering from various eating and mental health disorders. How do we effectively manage mental health when most of the triggers are external factors that are out of our control? 

What Is Bulimia?


Around the world, there are about 70 million people who are suffering from eating disorders. All ages and sexes are prone to experiencing such conditions, however women are more likely to suffer from an eating disorder by 2.3% than men. Across generations, it is also more likely to occur during the teenage years. Bulimia is a fatal disease if left unaddressed, with around 3.9% mortality rate.

Bulimia is an eating disorder wherein the person has a distorted body image resulting in a series of binge eating and purging. A person with bulimia may see him/herself as excessively fat even though they are underweight in reality. They undergo a binge-eating episode wherein they lose control and eat a massive amount of food. Afterwards, they will feel guilt and shame, and so they purge themselves. 

The binge eating and purging cycle can have severe effects on a person’s physical health. The forceful vomiting of purging can damage the mouth, blood vessels, and glands resulting in tooth decay, puffy cheeks, raspy voice, and red eyes. Other effects of excessive purging are acid reflux, stomach pain, dehydration, heart problems, hormonal imbalances, and reproductive health issues. 

Also, beyond the detrimental physical effects of bulimia, the person suffers from severe mental and emotional health disturbances. Bulimic patients are also likely to suffer from depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic disorder. 

The causes of bulimia are not entirely straightforward. All eating disorders are not just problems with body-weight perception and eating habits. They are rooted in much more profound psychological and emotional issues.

Current studies suggest that bulimia is an interplay of various factors such as genetics, emotional regulation problems, low self-esteem, and social factors like media portrayals of ideal body type and appearances.

 Coping Up With Bulimia 

Among people who have bulimia, around 55% to 85% go into remission within 90 days of receiving an intervention. However, 14% to 26% of the recoveries go into relapse. A proper assessment that would appropriately address the person’s underlying emotional and psychological problems is essential to avoid this. 


Depending on your case, the doctor may opt for hospitalization if your weight is alarmingly low. If not, you may be good with outpatient services. The treatment may be in the form of the following

  • Nutritional Rehabilitation

The goal of this specific kind of treatment is to normalize eating habits and achieve a healthy weight.

  • Antipsychotic And Antidepressants Medication 

These medications have been proven effective for some in improving the person’s weight and psychological stability. However, the effects of these drugs still vary for every patient, so it is vital to seek professional help for proper prescription.

  • Psychosocial Interventions

The most effective as of now is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). CBT identifies and changes the mental perception associated with the specific eating behaviors. Other psychosocial interventions include family therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.

Apart from these clinical interventions, a study also found a guided self-help approach combined with a group CBT to be effective in bulimic patients. It significantly reduced the frequency of binge-eating, vomiting, and laxative use. 

Self-Care Tips For People With Bulimia 

While it is essential to follow the recommended treatments of licensed professionals, it is also necessary to take good care of yourself. Listed below are the suggested self-care tips that you should follow.

1. Understand Yourself 

First and foremost, you must understand yourself, your triggers, emotions, and behavior. In this way, you will know the root causes of your action and sooner find a way to deal with them. Recognize and accept that there is a problem and try to look at it objectively. 

2. Find A Solid Support System 

Being surrounded by friends and families who understand your condition is healthy for your mental health. Once you find people whom you are comfortable enough with, open to them about your problems. Not only will it keep you safe in case of your next trigger, but talking to other people could clear your head and untangle those thoughts, too. 


3. Avoid Triggers 

After identifying your triggers, ake an active decision to reframe your perception around these triggers and stay away from them. Triggers are unique for each person, and it’s crucial to identify your own. For some, social media sites can act as triggers. 

With social media, we tend to compare ourselves to unreasonable standards. It is often inevitable to feel pressure and envy towards others. Understand that everyone is different is different and each has their own pace and timing. If you feel like social media is detrimental to your mental health, it will be best to avoid it until you learn how to manage your triggers. 

4. Develop A Routine And Discover Your Passion 

Keep yourself preoccupied with finding something you like to do. It will help drive your attention away from harmful and self-destructive thoughts. You can try something new such as cooking, baking, painting, sports, or playing an instrument.

Incorporate exercise into your everyday life. It may be something as simple as stretching or Zumba. Anything to keep your blood flowing because it can significantly uplift your mood as well. There are numerous instructional videos on the web that you can follow to keep your body moving.

Indeed, eating disorders are a call to deeper psychological and social problems. Acknowledging and understanding your problem is the first active step you can take to manage your symptoms. 


Five Tips On Dealing With Bulimia As A Family


Eating together as a family is one of the simplest yet most memorable instances a family could share. Gathering around the dining table, and enjoying each meal is a chance for conversations to flow as it creates strong bonds among family members.

However, instances like this may differ notably in families with members who are suffering from eating disorders. How can a family savor each meal together while effectively dealing with bulimia? 

Understanding Eating Disorder 

People suffering from eating disorders may suffer from disturbances in eating habits, which may affect their mental health. Most of the time, they are preoccupied with trying to deal with their body weight and figure and food intake.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are two kinds of eating disorders wherein a person may be extremely conscious of their body weight. In both conditions, a person may always see themselves as overweight. Anorexia nervosa causes a person to weigh at least 15% below their healthy weight. Symptoms of anorexia include low food intake.

On the other hand, people with bulimia nervosa may weigh slightly heavier than those with anorexia. People with bulimia eat a significant amount of food in such a short period. However, they would also take in laxatives or induce vomiting to get rid of the excessive calories and sugar they consumed. 

The exact cause of bulimia is yet to be identified. However, several factors may affect its occurrence. Some of these factors are genetics, biology, mental health, and societal expectations, among others. The combination of these factors and the desire to adapt to beauty standards often pushes a person to develop eating disorders. 


According to research, females are more likely to suffer from bulimia than males. It often occurs during the adolescent years of a teenager to early adulthood. These are stages in their lives when they want to belong and be accepted. 

Health Risks Of Bulimia 

If unattended, bulimia may lead to serious health consequences. People who have bulimia may suffer from malnutrition because they do not get proper nutrition from their food. Because of this, a person’s immune system may become weak, making them at a higher risk of being infected by other diseases. 

Aside from malnutrition, constant vomiting may lead to dental problems because of the acid released by the body. It may damage the enamel of the teeth, cause bad breath, and sore throat. Females who have bulimia may also experience irregular or absent menstruation cycles. Physical consequences of bulimia may include dry skin, brittle fingernails, weakness, and bone problems. 

Those who suffer from eating disorders need all the support they could get. The whole family must be involved in creating a healthier and positive environment for sufferers. The family is the immediate source of strength and acceptance of persons with bulimia. To be able to deal with bulimia within the family properly, here are some tips: 

Follow These Tips 

  • Open Communication Lines 

Some problems and issues may trigger eating disorders. The family can avoid or deal with bulimia effectively if a person can freely say what they feel. 

  • Promote Body Positivity 


Parents lead by example. Unfortunately, parents can also forget how their actions, thoughts, and words can impact the lives of their children. When it involves body image and eating behavior, this can be especially relevant,” says Robert Glatter, M.D.

There is a high level of trust amongst the members of the family. Because of this, whatever is said and heard within the family is often believed by its members. Promoting body positivity within the family would reduce the risk of developing a person’s insecurities. The family members would not need to seek validation from others because people who love him assure him or her of acceptance.  

  • Be Wary Of Internet Use 

The internet feeds a massive amount of information with just a few clicks. Anyone can post anything on the internet for everyone to see. Suddenly, everyone has a voice of what you should be and how you should look like. 

With the ease of access to information, people can easily be influenced by society’s ideals. Because of this, insecurities may also rise. Being wary of internet use is about knowing what information to take and those that should be ignored. Mindful use of the internet would detach you from the misleading “realities” of society. 

  • Create Healthy Meals 


Most people who have bulimia are under too much pressure to achieve an ideal body or weight. The constant thought of being fat would cause them to induce vomiting to not gain weight. 

To avoid the need for purging, create healthy yet delicious meals for the family. Make sure that each member is involved and dedicated to a healthier lifestyle. Incorporate more vegetables and less sugar and fats into your family’s diet. Encourage the person with bulimia to eat without purging him or herself.  

  • Create A Happy Home 

One of the factors that may trigger bulimia is stressors. Research reveals that some people living with bulimia are also members of dysfunctional families. Stress coming from family conflict may seek comfort from food, which would increase their food consumption. Creating a happy home would remove or decrease possible stressors in an individual. A positive environment at home will provide a sense of security. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating bulimia. Sufferers and their families should understand the roots of the problem to be able to address it adequately. Often therapy can help unearth these root causes. These days, treatment has been made accessible for most because they now utilize the web, like BetterHelp, for example. With the internet and your device, you can benefit from the help that a licensed therapist can give to enhance your life. 

These tips are meant to encourage you to be involved in the lives of your family members. Use these tips to understand one another better. Give your full support to family members who are sufferers of eating disorders. Someday, when all is well, you can fully enjoy your meals together. 


Online Therapy For Girls With Bulimia Nervosa During The Lockdown And More


I have heard of bulimia nervosa, the eating disorder. But at that time, I didn’t know how it could negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health until I saw one suffering from it. My poor daughter is suffering from bulimia nervosa, and as a mother, I thought that I had failed her. I should have seen this coming, and I should have been more focused on her. What kind of a mother am I if I could not see how my children were doing? At first, I blamed it on myself, and I felt very guilty.

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Upsides Of Being Quarantined With Bulimic Child

Ever since the child psychologist confirmed that my 14-year-old daughter was suffering from bulimia nervosa, my emotions had been a mess. I felt angry at myself for not paying attention to the signs soon. I pitied my child for developing an eating disorder—an experience that might stay etched in her mind forever.

When I had a heart-to-heart conversation with my daughter after the diagnosis, she crumbled in front of me. She said, “Mom, the kids at school have been bullying me for years, calling me Juggernaut or Miss Piggy. I feel ashamed for eating a lot every mealtime, so I end up forcing myself to bring the foods back out.”



Despite the twisted reasoning that I just heard, I could not get angry at my child. She’s going through something that even adults could not handle level-headedly. How could anyone expect her to know what to do from the start?

Still, after that conversation, I encouraged my daughter to seek help. I allowed her to choose her therapist and what type of therapy she would do to ensure that she wasn’t doing it to appease me. The first sessions went great; they took place once a week a few blocks away from home. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my daughter had to get therapy online. The child psychologist then tasked me to monitor her behavior closely and text her about it almost daily to see her progress.

I am not saying it because I love my child, but I have not seen any worrying activity from her. It’s as if the quarantine is very suitable for my daughter’s healing process.

These are the upsides that I have noticed:



Lack Of Social Pressure Makes A Child Worry-Free

My child is visibly more relaxed now than ever. She stays in her pajamas all day long and jokes around with us. It seems natural for her not to talk about being fat or give any body-related comment.

I believe that this change is all thanks to the lack of social pressure that my daughter experiences now. When she attends a class via the school’s online portal, I would see that everyone else—even the teacher—is not dressed to impress. I also saw one student snoring on top of his books, thus proving that no one cared about their appearance for once. So, my kid does not feel any pressure to follow the social norms or entertain distorted thoughts about body image.



Hard Work Lessens Food Consumption

When the lockdown started, I informed the entire family that we would not be ordering food from restaurants for a while. The reason was that I wanted to lessen our social interaction with other people and reduce the chances of getting the coronavirus. They could tell me what they wanted to eat so that I could order the groceries online and have the salesperson drop them in my trunk. However, we would have to make the dish together.

Eating too much and then vomiting it later was perhaps easy-peasy for my 14-year-old kid before the lockdown. However, since my daughter’s expected to chop the vegetables or man the stovetop these days, she appears to eat until she’s full. Hence, there are no more long, suspicious bathroom trips after mealtimes.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have any idea how much longer this quarantine will last. It can happen next week or in the next two months. What I can only pray for, though, is that my daughter will continue to let go of her bulimic habits until she does not feel the need to do it anymore. If that happens, I will be the happiest and most fulfilled mother on the planet.

Tips To Protect Your Teen From Bulimia

The role of nutrition in promoting good health among teens was emphasized during the 2018 Boston Annual Nutrition & Health Conference. The conference discussed the importance of having a balanced diet and proper food nutrition in preventing illnesses, which includes eating disorders.

Eating disorders can significantly affect the health and well-being of teens, especially among girls. As a parent, you need to protect them from it.


With this in mind, here are some tips and advice to help you protect your teen from developing bulimia: 

Know The Symptoms Of Bulimia

Prevention is better than cure, so you have to be wary of the symptoms of bulimia to prevent it before your child shows signs. The most common symptoms are: 

  • Usually having an average or low body weight but perceive themselves as overweight
  • Constant binge eating, often in secret
  • Self-induced throwing up
  • Excessive exercise or fasting
  • Strange eating habits that appear abruptly


Promote Healthy Eating Habits

Proper nutrition is critical to our health, appearance, and energy level. It would be best if you encourage your teen to eat whenever he or she feels hungry. It would also be helpful to explain why they shouldn’t deprive themselves of eating correctly. 

One way to boost their appetite is to prepare meals that they like but are nutritious at the same time. You should also eat together as a family more frequently to model good eating habits and encourage them.

Develop Open Communication With Your Teen 

Teenagers are exposed to different media that may influence their behavior, confidence, and personality. Television programs, movies, and social media platforms may send a wrong message to your teen. Talk to them about the media they consume.

Encourage A Healthy Body Image

To protect your child from bulimia, you have to convince him or her about the importance of proper eating habits in having a healthy body. It might not be easy, but it is essential to talk to your teen about self-image and reassure them that body shapes vary.


Seeking advice or a second opinion from other experts may help you detect if your child is at risk of having bulimia. Moreover, consulting with your teen’s doctor is vital for proper diagnosis and treatment. If necessary, he or she can refer your teen to a mental health provider.

The Psychology Behind Bulimia



Bulimia nervosa is a severe mental health disorder that if left untreated can become life-threatening. It involves the intake of excessive amounts of food and then engaging in compensatory behaviors to counteract this intake. There can be purging bulimia where the person uses self-induced vomiting or laxatives, enemas or diuretics to rid the body of the food. In contrast, there can be non-purging bulimia where they use other compensatory methods such as strict dieting or engaging in excessive exercise. These two types of bulimia are not necessarily exclusive and often overlap. Despite this focus on food, truly bulimia is not about food, but anxiety. People experiencing bulimia are often worried about their weight or body shape. They are likely to have high expectations for themselves and a tendency to focus on their self-perceived flaws. As bulimia goes deeper than simply a concern about food or weight and is rather due to deeper seeded low self-esteem, it can be very difficult to recover from. However, with good support and the right treatment, it can certainly be overcome.

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Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa is not just an eating disorder but a grave psychological disorder that can become life-threatening under some circumstances. This eating disorder is typically characterized by recurring phases of binge eating and purging where the patient first stuffs as much food as possible and thereafter, retires to the bathroom to vomit out the food. The bulimic initially tries to refrain from bingeing as he is apprehensive of gaining weight, but is unable to control his cravings in the end.

Historically, across cultures, humans (and other animals) are known to engage in ritualized behaviors of  purging and regurgitation as methods of altering states of consciousness. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

In order to compensate for having consumed too much, a patient of bulimia attempts to disgorge the excessive food through self-induced regurgitation through the use of diuretics, emetics, and laxatives. Many bulimics do intensive workouts, starve, and go through a rigorous dietary plan to burn the calories. Bulimia nervosa often takes a tremendous toll on the physical and mental health of the patients resulting in their suffering from heart attacks, hypertension, and damaged kidneys.

A great majority of bulimics often report symptoms of depression, and anxiety disorder and several other mental disorders.


Following are some of the most common symptoms of bulimia nervosa:

  • A round of bingeing where the patient consumes upwards of 2,000 calories of food at one sitting lasting for a short period
  • The bingeing is followed by spells of vomiting to disgorge the excess amount of food consumed or embarking on strenuous exercises, fasting or following rigorous dietary regimens in order to burn calories
  • Large scale misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and emetics with the ultimate aim of preventing weight gain. However, rampant abuse of such medications can prove to be fatalistic in the long run.
  • Torn between feelings of uncontrollable urge to eat on one hand and the attendant guilt that comes with overindulgence and the apprehension of putting on weight
  • Preoccupation with overeating, dieting, purging, and body weight keeps the bulimic from performing routine tasks and leading a normal life
  • Having a sense of worth oriented around weight and physique

Perhaps sociology could offer answers as to why these so-called ‘gurgitators’ would inhale everything from hot dogs to mayonnaise under the pressure of time and before live screaming audiences…of thousands. — Lawrence Rubin Ph.D, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S

Besides the above prevalent and widespread symptoms, a bulimic may exhibit the following signs as well:

  • Stowing food items in the most unlikeliest of places, especially areas that the patient may be easily able to access without being found out
  • Prefers to eat alone rather than in the company of other people
  • Female bulimics may experience irregularity in their menstrual cycles
  • The patient might lose or gain considerable weight on a recurrent basis, and in a short time period
  • Conversations and discussions will mostly revolve around dieting, foods, figure, and body weight
  • Will appear ashen or pale owing to deficiency and/or imbalances of vital electrolytes including sodium, potassium, and calcium and loss of fluids owing to frequent purging leading to dehydration
  • Will be obsessed with workouts and overuse laxatives/diuretics


Physical signs and symptoms:

  • Flaky, dry, and wrinkled skin
  • Thin, dry and frizzy hair
  • Mouth ulcers and sores
  • Decaying teeth, tooth enamel, and bleeding gums
  • Inflamed salivary glands
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Successive bouts of diarrhea and constipation
  • Heartburns
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Restlessness and anxiety owing to lack of sleep
  • Calluses or bite marks on knuckles resulting from frequent regurgitation brought upon by oneself
  • Wreaked by feelings of guilt, depression, and anxiety
  • Shoplifting
  • Substance abuse, alcoholism, and resorting to intake of banned medications or drugs

Ample research shows that people can be healthy and confident at a whole range of shapes and sizes. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.


Most of the common signs or symptoms associated with bulimia nervosa are not palpable, making it difficult to diagnose the eating disorder as the patients are fearful of expressing the same. Bulimics can go to extreme lengths to prove that they are perfectly normal and healthy. If you are a bulimic yourself or know somebody who may be suffering from the eating disorder, then you seek medical intervention right away.

The Chief Causes and Types of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa or simply bulimia is a grave eating disorder that affects a significant proportion of the population, particularly young women, and can sometimes get fatal. An individual with bulimia tends to binge or eat gluttonously during a sitting, much more than what one would consume normally. Majority of bulimics also resort to purging or regurgitating after a round of gorging.

At a larger social level are the influences of pressure and advertisements on children and adults of what constitutes a perfect body and the ways that food, or lack thereof, may achieve that. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

Bulimic individuals usually follow the cycle of bingeing and vomiting with the sole objective of staying as slim as possible and checking weight gain. Bulimics find themselves torn apart by an irrepressible urge to eat on one hand, and on the other, an irresistible desire to purge or vomit the excess food consumed. However, there is a proportion of bulimics who exploit other ways in order to shed the excessive intake of calories, instead of purging, like dieting, starvation, and intensive workouts.

It is estimated that 0.1-0.5% of males and 1.1-4.6% of females in the US may have or have had bulimia at some point in their life.


Symptoms and Signs of Bulimia

Unlike anorexics, bulimics tend to be have a normal weight and a very few bulimic persons are obese or overweight. Bulimics, on the other hand are also more likely to indulge in substance abuse, including narcotics, banned prescription drugs, tranquilizers, and alcohol. A typical bulimic might be difficult to identify as the usual signs or symptoms associated with the eating disorder are barely noticeable.

Physical signs generally include:

  • Fluctuating body weight
  • Acute dehydration
  • Malnutrition causing one to remain in poor health
  • GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease)
  • Irregularity in menstruation
  • Teeth damage and sore throat owing to acid refluxes

And the behavioral symptoms entail:

  • Gorging
  • Eating all by oneself
  • Stashing food in unlikely places
  • Visiting the bathroom right after bingeing
  • Being finicky about gaining weight
  • Starving or dieting intensively followed by binge eating and vice versa

Bulimics are in the habit of taking emetics and laxatives that stimulate purging urges and usually keep such medications hidden. These persons also are adversely affected by sudden mood swings, and often diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorder. A bulimic might feel inhibited to talk about his or her eating disorder despite being acutely aware of the same.

Newsflash: purging food was discovered eons ago by patients suffering from eating disorders—no surgical procedure required. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.

Causes of Bulimia

The causes behind bulimia nervosa that have not yet been traced may help diagnosticians and medical scientists to work out an effective treatment plan. However, most dieticians, nutritionists, and medical professionals are of the opinion that a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral or temperamental factors are responsible for causing bulimia. Bulimics subjecting themselves to bingeing followed by a phase of purging is usually a means of dealing with emotional and psychological stress.

Bulimia patients are constantly troubled by feelings, usually bordering on irrationality that they are putting on undue weight and becoming obese. Consequently, they develop a sort of love-hate relationship with everything related to obesity including food. What starts as a simple way for managing emotional stress soon burgeons into an infatuation that bulimics find difficult to control.

A bulimic often indulges in self-destructive behavior leading to chronic psychological issues including anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Oftentimes, symptoms and behaviors are rationalized and minimized by the person who engages in them. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

Risk Factors

Researchers and scientists are yet to pin down a single, palpable risk factor that might cause an outbreak of bulimia. It is generally alleged that there could be a set of environmental, psychological, biological, behavioral, and genetic factors working in coordination. Women are more prone to exhibiting symptoms of bulimia, compared to men, mostly during puberty when they experience physical and mental changes as a result of increased hormonal secretions.

More often, an obsession to emulate the dietary styles of celebrities, results in the young female being diagnosed with bulimia.



 The treatment procedure or plan for breaking the destructive cycle of binging and purging is protracted, lasting for nothing less than 4-6 months. A judicious blend of nutritional counseling, cognitive and behavioral therapy, medications, interpersonal therapy and the support of near and dear ones are instrumental for remitting symptoms of bulimia.

The Risks of Physical Harm Arising out of Bulimia

 It seems counterintuitive to think about how many people are willing to put their emotional and physical health at risk in order to lose weight when one of the main reasons that people state for wanting to lose weight is to improve their health and feel better about themselves. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.

Bulimia nervosa is regarded as a serious eating disorder where the patient indulges in successive phases of bingeing, gorging on food, and purging or regurgitating with the aim of keeping self extremely lean. Though bulimia apparently is associated with recurring cycles of eating excessively and then dieting or starving, there’s much more to the eating disorder than you might think. Bulimia can play havoc with one’s physical and mental well-being, and in the worst case scenario, lead to the patient’s death.

This eating disorder takes a tremendous toll not only on the patient’s physical well being but also on his mental health. Bulimics, are more often than not, diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), anxiety disorder, and depression. They are subjected to extreme irritability and mood swings owing to malnutrition, lack of sleep, dehydration caused by electrolyte imbalance, IBS, and other issues.


Physical Side Effects

Following are some of the adverse side effects arising out of Bulimia


Electrolyte Imbalances and Abnormalities

As a bulimic patient usually escapes to the bathroom to vomit after a round of bingeing, he or she loses a high amount of fluids leading to electrolyte imbalance. Owing to electrolyte imbalance, the patient’s body becomes deficient of vital minerals including sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Abnormal decreases in the levels of these minerals or electrolytes can lead to chemical imbalances ultimately causing a heart attack or malfunctioning of other bodily organs.

Eating disorders are highly comorbid with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the  functional nutritional treatment  for both is very similar. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

Digestive and intestinal issues

Both binge eating and purging causes a heavy strain on the digestive system and metabolism of the bulimic individual. All organs associated with digestion and ingestion starting from the teeth, tongue, esophagus, and stomach to liver, kidney, and intestines are overworked as abnormal amounts of food have to be broken down for assimilation. Additionally, self-induced regurgitation leads to further straining of these organs.

Initially, the patient will experience abdominal pains, heartburns, bloating, and stomach cramps. In the long run, it is not unusual for the bulimic to be diagnosed with peptic or gastric ulcers, tooth decay, enamel erosion, and gingivitis. Long-term laxative and emetic abuse leads to diarrhea, constipation, and rupturing of the esophageal wall. GERD or acid reflux also has the potential of damaging the small and large intestines, trigger blood vomiting, and cause distended salivary glands.


Unfavorable effects on the circulatory system

Purging on a recurrent basis results in undue loss of fluids and electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and calcium eventually causing dehydration. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance causes the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and tissues to become weak leading to muscle cramps. All these issues have a bearing on the normal functioning of the heart making the blood pumping and purifying organ to miss regular heartbeats-a medical condition termed arrhythmia.

Arrhythmic pulsations put a heavy stress on the heart, and in the worst case scenario, lead to a heart attack because of fatigued cardiac muscles. On the other hand if the patient is severely dehydrated, he or she might lose consciousness or faint, may suffer falls, feel dizzy, and over time, the kidneys might get damaged permanently. Bulimia nervosa may cause optic blood vessels to rupture, lead to hypertension and anemia.


Integumentary system takes a beating as well

The side effects of bulimia are across-the-board and does not even spare the organs categorized under integumentary system, like the nails, skin, and the hairs. Dehydration resulting from periodic spells of regurgitation leads to a decreased level of water in the body which implies that all bodily organs including the nails and the hairs have to make do with less water. Consequently, hairs dry up and turn frizzy, the skin wrinkles, and the nails become brittle.


 And the reproductive system also

Bulimic individuals deprive their bodies of essential nutrients, causing hormonal imbalance eventually leading to decreased appetite for coitus. Pregnant and lactating women continuing with their binging and purging behaviors also face several complications.

Anyone who is has an eating disorder is very invested in maintaining the thoughts and behaviors that fuel it, so when a loved one expresses concern they may be met with anger or defensiveness. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA


Bulimia nervosa, despite its severity, is very much treatable. However, bulimics need to be very patient as the treatment process is long drawn, spread over a period of 3-6 months. A combination of treatment plans including behavioral and cognitive therapies, medications, and interpersonal therapies needs to be resorted to for healing.