The Effects of Being Bulimic: Physical and Psychological

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What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia involves a binge-purge behavior where a person has uncontrollable episodes of significant overeating, and is later overwhelmed with guilt or a sense of self-disgust. Then they resort to various methods of purging such as vomiting or laxative abuse to prevent themselves from gaining weight. This self-destructive behavior is not without its consequences. There are multiple physical and psychological effects of being bulimic.

Physical Effects of Being Bulimic

Being bulimic puts your body and your life at risk. The most dangerous side effect of this affliction is dehydration due to purging. Inducing vomiting and using laxatives and diuretics causes an electrolyte imbalance in the body, mainly low potassium levels which in turn causes physical symptoms such as lethargy, cloudy thinking, irregular heart beat and even death.

Other physical symptoms are as follows: -

  1. Bulimia teeth and mouth sores– erosion of teeth enamel and discolored teeth, which is the result of exposure to stomach acid when vomiting. Teeth may look yellow, ragged or clear. Tendency to develop mouth sores caused by stomach acid and malnutrition.
  2. Puffy chipmunk cheeks – face appears swollen, caused by repeated vomiting which makes the lymph nodes and salivary glands and parotid glands swell up.
  3. Calluses or scars on knuckles or hands – caused by the bulimic person sticking his or her fingers down the throat to induce vomiting.
  4. Broken blood vessels in eyes – caused by forced vomiting which can pop a blood vessel.
  5. Fluctuations in weight – weight may fluctuate by 10 pounds or more due to the person’s binge purge cycle.
  6. Stomach ulcer and bleeding in throat - caused by vomiting
  7. Water retention and kidney damage – caused by laxative/diuretic use
  8. Chronic constipation – from laxative abuse
  9. Stress fractures, irregular menstrual cycle, osteoporosis – caused by excessive exercise

Psychological Effects of Being Bulimic

Individuals who are bulimic obsess about their weight and how they look. They do not have a realistic body image of themselves and when they look in the mirror, they believe that they are overweight when in fact they may be normal or even underweight.

The following are some of the psychological effects of being bulimic: -

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Negative self-image often associated with guilt and shame
  3. A feeling of helplessness and lack of control
  4. Humiliation, disgust, social withdrawal
  5. Irritability and anger
  6. Suicidal thoughts
  7. Compulsive behaviors, which dictate many activities, especially food related activities
  8. Obsessive thoughts and preoccupations
  9. Feeling alienated and alone

The psychological effects may contribute to bulimia, or they can be the consequence of the eating disorder. It can become a vicious circle.

In addition, due to fatigue brought on by this condition, bulimic patients often do not have the energy to socialize. This sense of isolation and lack of social connections may be the reason why they are so focused on food and their weight. Due to the secretive nature of bulimia, sufferers may have a difficult time developing and maintaining relationships with others.

Although it may seem like there is no escape from bulimia, recovery is possible. With proper treatment, support from others and many more self-help strategies, you can win the fight against bulimia and gain true self-confidence.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health,