Warning Signs of Bulimia

Did you know that up to 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa? Chances are, this number is actually much higher, as most victims do not ever come forward. These numbers are staggering! The warning signs of bulimia make it one of the hardest eating disorders to recognize, because unlike anorexia nervosa, the symptoms are easier to hide. This means that bulimia can go unrecognized for years before friends and family members realize their loved one is suffering from an eating disorder.  

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa, more commonly known as bulimia, presents as an eating disorder and is a very serious mental illness. Those who suffer from bulimia are stuck in a vicious cycle of eating large amounts of food at one time, called binge eating, and then purging. Purging is the act of attempting to overcompensate for binge eating. Purging may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Taking laxatives
  • Taking diuretics
  • Fasting
  • Exercising

It is important to understand that those who suffer from bulimia are binging and purging without control over their actions. It’s a compulsion that they are not able to stop. This eating disorder ranges in severity from very infrequent to a part of daily life. For those who suffer from bulimia as a part of their daily lives, the results can be catastrophic.    

Who is at Risk for Developing Bulimia?

Bulimia does not discriminate. It can affect anyone of any age, ethnicity, or gender. With that being said, bulimia nervosa is most often seen in adolescents and young adults. Girls and women are more likely to develop bulimia than men or boys. There are also certain risk factors that put you or a loved one at a higher risk of experiencing bulimia:

  • Having close relatives that have suffered from bulimia or currently suffer from this eating disorder
  • Experiencing emotional or psychological trauma
  • Those who are extreme dieting 

This is not a complete list, there are many reasons why someone might develop bulimia nervosa. This is dependent on their specific situation.

Possible Complications of Bulimia Nervosa 

Prolonged or severe bulimia can cause numerous complications and medical issues including:

  • Digestive problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal actions

Even though bulimia originates as a mental issue, it can cause very serious physical medical conditions that can alter the victim’s life or worse, result in death.

What are the Warning Signs of Bulimia?

While it is true that bulimia can be hard to detect because those suffering from it tend to be secretive and very good at hiding their activities, there are still red flags that can alert you that your loved one may be suffering from this very dangerous eating disorder. If you are concerned a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder, there are warning signs of bulimia you can look for. The most common include:

  • Episodes of binge eating
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Smelling like vomit
  • Misuse of laxatives and diuretics
  • Complaining about body image
  • Expressing guilt or shame about eating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal from family and friends after meals
  • Scars on knuckles and hands
  • Edema
  • Normal or overweight appearance
  • Puffy cheeks
  • Significant fluctuation in weight 
  • Uncomfortable eating around others
  • Hides food in strange places
  • Drinks excessive amounts of water
  • Appears bloated from fluid retention

If you or your loved one is exhibiting the warning signs of bulimia, please don’t wait to seek eating disorder diagnosis and treatment. Fairwinds Treatment Center provides highly effective bulimia treatment for this dangerous, yet very treatable, eating disorder.

What Can You Do? 

First of all, it is important to understand that bulimia is a mental illness that is just as real as any other medical condition and should not be taken lightly. If you are suffering from bulimia, hope is not lost. This is a very treatable condition. Confide in a close friend or family member and take the first steps to seek treatment for your condition. There is no shame in asking for help that will lead to a better quality of life. 

If you have a loved one who is suffering from bulimia nervosa, chances are they are hiding the eating disorder. Approach the subject cautiously and understand that you will probably be met with resistance at first. They may even become very angry that their secret has become known. Offer to be a confidante and encourage them to seek treatment. When they are ready, offer to go with them to their first appointment. Sometimes the most important thing you can do for someone suffering from an eating disorder such as bulimia is to just be there for them. Ask them what they need of you and then be sure to follow through. 

Why Choose Fairwinds Treatment Center?

Fairwinds Treatment Center is one of the top eating disorder and substance abuse treatment centers in the world. Our team understands the complexities of these ailments and the underlying psychological conditions that cause them and implement clinically backed methods to help those suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

Fairwinds also provides treatment for the recovery of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

If you or your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, substance abuse or both, there is no time to waste. Contact Fairwinds Treatment Center today by phone or via our online form to start the journey toward treatment and recovery.


If you are ready to discuss treatment for yourself or a loved one, the Fairwinds admissions team is here to help.

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