Bulimia can have far-ranging ill effects on both the person’s body and mental health.
Here are a few examples of those adverse outcomes:
Bulimia nervosa afflicts approximately 4% of women and 0.5% of men in the US. Nearly 4% of those suffering from bulimia will die from the disease and nearly all struggling with the illness experience serious medical and/ or emotional effects. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.
Digestion And Nutrition
People with Bulimia will predominantly suffer from issues of digestion and nutrition. Frequent binging and purging can cause life-threatening damage to the digestive system, especially the esophagus and stomach. As the food is being for forcefully ejected from vomiting, the esophagus’ sphincter can weaken, thus allowing stomach acid to back up and damage it. Excessive intake and purging of food can likewise cause tears in the esophagus – this is called a Mallory-Weiss tear, and it causes one to vomit blood.
Other effects on the digestive system include acid reflux, stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation. Physically, these internal damages can manifest in the following:
- Tooth decay – caused by strong stomach acids that erode the teeth and gums
- Swollen cheeks – a sign of swollen salivary glands
- Sore Eyes – blood vessels in the eyes can burst from excessive vomiting
- Hoarse Voice and Coughing – caused by stomach acid irritation in the throat
Nutrition is also compromised when suffering from Bulimia. Food is not given enough time to be digested when forcefully purged abruptly, so the body lacks the means to nourish itself from the food it takes in. The deprivation of nourishment can trigger the body to shut down to suppress the use of energy – this leads to endocrinal imbalances in the body that can further into life-threatening diseases.
Note also that purging can severely dehydrate the body of electrolytes, inciting seizures, and cardiovascular issues. Other effects can manifest in low heart rates, low blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, and challenges in maintaining body temperature.
…people who restrict will obviously begin to lose weight, wear baggier clothing to hide it, move their food around on the plate but not eat it, chew food and spit it out. As a result, girls and women are likely to lose their periods as the hormone that is needed to menstruate is stored in fat cells and food with fat is typically eliminated from the diet. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA
Hormonal imbalances can follow a body’s lack of nutrition, leading to abnormalities in the reproductive system. Low levels of hormones can cause the menstrual cycle to stop, ovaries to shut down, and hamper pregnancy. Bulimia can also lead to a loss of sex drive and increases the risk of osteoporosis.
Pregnant women with bulimia can endanger their child as binging, and purging can cause complications such as low birth weight, birth abnormalities, and premature birth. It can also trigger miscarriages, and a vulnerable mental state can compound with postpartum depression.
Denying the problem and thereby denying its effects are not uncommon. Patients sometimes lie also about the severity of their condition, further hampering the selection of appropriate treatment options. — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS
Mental And Psychological State
Bulimia, at its core, is a mental health condition – it is fuelled by a person’s guilt, shame, lack of control, or poor body image. On top of this, they are usually compelled to hide this condition from others, causing more stress and anxiety. This opens up a person to more mental issues such as:
- Mood swings
- Bouts of depression and obsessive-compulsive behavior
- Anxiety and isolation
- Propensity for self-harm
- Low self-esteem
Bulimia may seem as trivial as an eating disorder but make no mistake that its effects run deep. It causes serious harm to a person’s physical, emotional, and mental welfare, so it is integral to reach out for help when aware of the signs. Seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional to attend and treat its symptoms and effects. Remember that there is no shame in seeking help, and it may even be vital to one’s overall well-being.