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What Are the Warning Signs of Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa, more commonly known as simply bulimia, is characterized a chronic binge-and-purge pattern of eating, in which the sufferer periodically consumes a large amount of food and forcibly expels it a short time after, usually through self-induced vomiting.

The bingeing part of the cycle may be brought on by emotional triggers such as anxiety, depression or self-loathing as a result of poor self-image, or may be the consequence of a period of self-starvation, which many bulimics inflict on themselves in between binges.

Behavioral Symptoms of Bulimia

Bulimic behavior can sometimes be difficult to recognize in part because, unlike anorexics, bulimics may seem, to the very casual observer, to be eating normally and regularly, and many maintain a weight that is within the normal range for their height and body type. However, a person may be suffering from bulimia if they:

Did You Know?

The average age of onset for bulimia in adults is 20, but many adult bulimics begin battling with it as teenagers. Combining the numbers of adolescents who suffer from anorexia and bulimia, eating disorder statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health estimate that these conditions affect 2.7 percent of all U.S. adolescents.

  • Demonstrate a pattern of extreme eating over time, flipping from eating very little to eating an unusually large volume of food
  • Don’t allow you to observe their pattern of eating in the first place because they are very secretive about food and reluctant to eat with others
  • Consistently excuse themselves to the washroom immediately after eating
  • Exercise obsessively
  • Abuse laxatives
  • Are fixated on weight and weight loss
  • Are intensely afraid of gaining weight
  • Feel unhappy with and ashamed of their body size even though they are not overweight

Bulimia Effects on the Body

Physical warning signs of bulimia present themselves if the condition goes untreated. Lack of nutritional sustenance is responsible for some symptoms, while the digestive passage’s ongoing exposure to stomach acid causes others. These signs include:

  • Cyclical weight gain and loss (may not be enough to be noticeable to others)
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fainting
  • Eroded tooth enamel, rotting teeth
  • Gum damage
  • Damaged esophageal lining
  • Scarring on the fingers or calluses on the back of the hand that has been used to induce vomiting
  • Swollen jaw/cheeks

If a bulimic also abuses laxatives as part of their purging, rectal bleeding can occur, and if they stop using the laxatives, chronic constipation is not uncommon.

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