Eating Disorders
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Bulimia Nervosa: Warning Signs, Physical Consequences, and Risk Factors

Bulimia Nervosa involves frequent episodes of binge eating almost always followed by purging and intense feelings of shame or guilt. Usually the individual feels out of control and recognizes that their behavior is abnormal but cannot stop.


By understanding the danger signals of Bulimia Nervosa, you can help a loved one get the treatment they need.


Danger Signals:

  1. Bingeing, or eating uncontrollably. Generally, a person binges if they eat more than what is typically normal in one sitting.
  2. Purging can be done in multiple ways to feel one has made up for the extra food they have consumed. 
  3. Using the bathroom frequently after meals
  4. Preoccupation with body weight
  5. Depression or mood swings
  6. Irregular periods
  7. Developing dental problems, swollen cheek glands, heartburn, and/or bloating.
  8. Experiencing personal or family problems with alcohol or drugs


If you recognize these signs in a loved one and believe they need help it is important to either approach them about the problem or confide in a trusted professional. If left untreated, Bulimia Nervosa can have lasting physical damage.


Physical Complications:

  1. Gastrointestinal problems: irritation of esophagus, stomach, salivary glands, and throat from persistent vomiting.
  2. Dependency on laxatives due to weakening of intestinal muscles
  3. Damaged or discolored teeth: gastric acids erode enamel
  4. Lung irritation: Choking while vomiting cause food particles to lodge in lungs, causing inflammation.
  5. Chronic loss of bodily fluids: depletes blood potassium, sodium and chloride levels, resulting in muscle spasms, weakness, irregular heartbeat, and kidney disease.


Risk Factors:


Although anyone could potentially develop an eating disorder, there are several risk factors that make it more likely for an individual to develop Bulimia Nervosa.


  1. Being female: women are more likely than men to develop bulimia nervosa.
  2. Age: An individual is more likely to develop bulimia nervosa in their late teens to early adulthood.
  3. Psychological or emotional issues: Usually a person is more likely to develop an eating disorder if suffering from one or more psychological or emotional issues. For example, low self-esteem, anger management problems, perfectionism, depression, impulsive behavior, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Additionally, the individual may have suffered a traumatic event and resorting to the eating disorder to cope.
  4. Societal pressure: Studies show that when exposed to media glamorizing being thin, girls are more likely to associate thinness with positive concepts. This can fuel a drive to be thin and create a fear of gaining weight.
  5. Sports: Athletes are at risk for eating disorders as a result of the demands of their sport. Those involved in gymnastics, wrestling, dance, and running are at a high risk for developing an eating disorder and coaches and guardians should monitor the behaviors of the athletes for safety.
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