Bulimia can develop after a person has followed a very
restrictive diet. Binging may also be triggered by a stressful event, when food
gives you a sense of comfort. Feeling guilty and ashamed of binging can cause
you to purge to avoid weight gain. This starts the cycle of binging and purging
that becomes a habit.
As bulimia develops, you may not eat at the
beginning of the day. But later you may binge to comfort yourself, especially
at the end of a stressful day.
Vomiting causes the body to release
endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make you feel good.
Eventually you may make yourself vomit even if you have not overeaten so that
you can feel good. Soon you lose control over the binge-purge cycle. Repeated
vomiting, fasting, exercising too much, or misusing
ipecac syrup, or
enemas will eventually cause serious, long-term health
After bulimia becomes a pattern, it is very hard
to return to normal eating without help. Unhealthy eating behaviors can
continue for many years before a person seeks treatment.
treated, bulimia can lead to serious, long-term health problems. It is common
for people to hide the condition from others for years. By the time others
discover the disorder, many people with bulimia already have serious problems.
These range from mild to severe, depending on the type of purging behaviors and
how long they have continued. Health problems caused
by bulimia include:
Tooth decay, toothaches, swollen gums,
gum disease (gingivitis), and erosion of
tooth enamel. These are caused by acid in the mouth
Electrolyte imbalances and changes in
metabolism that can lead to heart problems, such as
arrhythmia and even death.
Dehydration, which can lead to weakness, fainting, or
- Inflammation or tears of the
esophagus, which may cause bloody
loss of consciousness, usually because of low blood pressure.
Abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia).
- Low body
Suicide risk when feeling discouraged
about having bulimia or a relapse or about ongoing body image issues.
- Long-term problems with bowel movements because of laxative
Overuse of medicine (such as
ipecac syrup) to cause vomiting can lead to diarrhea,
weakness, low blood pressure, chest pain, and trouble breathing. A person
can die from prolonged overuse of these medicines.
health problems often occur along with
bulimia, which may make treatment take longer or make
bulimia harder to treat.1 These conditions
Although bulimia is a long-term disorder linked to serious
health problems, it can be successfully treated. Most people who seek
treatment for bulimia get better. About half of people with bulimia
recover completely with treatment. 2
Although treatment is usually successful, bulimia is a long-term disorder, and
setbacks can occur. A return of symptoms (relapse) might happen. But with ongoing treatment
and patience, most people can eventually overcome bulimia.
among teens with type 1 diabetes is becoming more common. These teens often
lose weight before their diabetes is discovered, then quickly gain weight when
treatment begins. Some learn that they can lose weight by skipping insulin
doses. This causes poor control of their diabetes and can result in serious
problems that can lead to blindness or kidney failure.