Bulimia

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Bulimia is a type of eating disorder that is characterized by recurring episodes of binging and purging. During a binge, a person dealing with bulimia may consume an abnormally large quantity of food over a short time period. This usually leads to physical, emotional, and psychological discomfort.

The combination of several different factors may spark the development of bulimia, including biological predisposition, exposure to trauma, abuse, environmental stressors, cultural influences and more. Research shows the lifetime prevalence of bulimia among women at about 1.5% and men at .5% in the United States alone [1].  A person can be affected by bulimia regardless of their gender, age, cultural background, or socioeconomic status.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Because of the shame that is often experienced with bulimia, a person who is struggling may not be willing to discuss the issues they may be facing as a result of this eating disorder. The signs and symptoms of bulimia may vary based on the individual, the severity of the eating disorder, and whether or not there are other coexisting psychiatric illnesses present.

A person dealing with bulimia may exhibit the following signs:

  • Hiding or hoarding food
  • Consumption of an abnormally large amount of food in short period of time
  • Missing food items
  • Frequent use of the bathroom after meal time
  • Visible anxiety, distress, or compulsiveness during meal times
  • Extreme anxiety and/or fear about weight gain
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and/or activities
  • Severely distorted perception of one’s body and self-image
  • Frequently engaging in dieting behaviors

The result of engaging in the binge/purge episodes that are characteristic of bulimia can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Digestive discomforts, including bloating, nausea, and/or constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Swelling around area of salivary glands
  • Sleeping irregularities
  • Dental problems, such as tooth decay and enamel erosion
  • Lack of emotion and/or flat mood
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Abnormal electrolyte levels
  • Cardiovascular complications, including irregular heart rhythms, low blood pressure, or heart attacks
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired immune response
  • Menstrual irregularities
References

[1]: Smink, F. R. E., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of Eating Disorders: Incidence, Prevalence and Mortality Rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(4), 406–414. doi:10.1007/s11920-012-0282