Dangers of bulimia

Originally Published: March 15, 1996 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 22, 2011
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Dear Alice,

I am bulimic and I would like to know exactly what harmful things this does to your body. Can you die from it? Can you actually be cured?

Dear Reader,

Bulimia is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition. There are multiple dangerous health consequences that result from being bulimic, both physical and psychological. Because it's so intimately entwined with self-image — it's not just about food — bulimia can be difficult to overcome. Bulimia can take a huge toll on a person's health, and rob her or him of the ability to enjoy life to the fullest. However, treatment can help and has helped many people with bulimia feel better about themselves and adopt healthier eating patterns.

Most people with bulimia will eat very large amounts of food rapidly and in secret, without much appreciation for its taste, texture, or quality. Following these binges, they often feel guilty, ashamed, and out of control. As a result, they try to get rid of the food either by vomiting, over-exercising, abusing laxatives, diuretics, or enemas, and/or not eating for several days. These practices may take place daily or weekly and go on for years.

Bulimia can lead to a number of serious and even life-threatening complications. The type of complications someone experiences is often related to their choice of purging method. Bulimia can cause:

  • Cardiovascular problems. Electrolyte imbalances due to vomiting can lead to heart muscle disorders and irregular heart rhythms. These can be life-threatening. Fainting and low blood pressures are also common issues.
  • Tooth and gum problems. Repeated vomiting washes up an excess of stomach acid over teeth and gums, which can cause a significant and permanent loss of dental enamel. Teeth may become ragged and chipped, and dental cavities may increase.
  • Throat and mouth problems. Frequent or regular vomiting can cause sores in your mouth or throat due to stomach acid irritation.
  • Low potassium levels. The purging process tends to dehydrate your body and lower the level of potassium in your blood. This can cause weakness and irregular heart rhythms.
  • Digestive problems. Purging by vomiting or use of laxatives may irritate the walls of your esophagus and rectum. In severe cases, your esophagus can rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding. Repeated purging may also cause constipation. Laxative abuse can lead to dependence. Gastrointestinal bleeding also may occur.
  • Abuse of medications and drugs. The variety of over-the-counter drugs you may use during purge cycles may cause a drug problem. Bulimia is also associated with higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse.
  • Psychological problems. Bulimia is often associated with depression, anxiety, and/or low self-esteem. People with bulimia may have trouble controlling impulsive behaviors, managing their moods or expressing anger.

Although the road to recovery may be challenging, people can be cured of bulimia. Treatment methods vary, including professional counseling, establishing regular eating patterns, learning alternative coping strategies for stressful or lonely times, and/or taking antidepressant medication. Columbia students who think they may have bulimia or a troubling relationship with eating and food can make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) by calling x4-2878. You can also make an appointment with a member of the Eating Disorders Team by calling x4-2284 or logging on to Open Communicator. Outside of Columbia, try The National Eating Disorders Association eating disorders information and referrals line at 1.800.931.2237 for referrals, assistance, support, and other information. You can change this self-destructive pattern, with commitment and help.

Alice

August 25, 2005

20949
Dear Alice,

YES! Bulimia is extremely dangerous! I know from experience. I was bulimic and anorexic for a little over 5 years. It started when I was 13. Trust me, hon, you don't want to go down...

Dear Alice,

YES! Bulimia is extremely dangerous! I know from experience. I was bulimic and anorexic for a little over 5 years. It started when I was 13. Trust me, hon, you don't want to go down that road. It's a really hard and long path. Eventually you will start throwing up blood, your hair will fall out, your skin will become so dry that even the most amounts of moisturizer won't work, your throat and stomach will hurt all of the time. You may get burst blood vessels in your eyes and face, your heart will have tons of problems, and you will be tired all of the time. The list goes on and on, and that's only the physical stuff.

Eventually, when people find out, you'll have to go to doctors, therapists, nutritionists, psychiatrists, and maybe even hospitals every week. You will have no life because the eating disorder will take it over, and if it doesn't do that, all of those appointments will. Not to mention, you will be no fun anymore because you will be irritable all of the time. There's more, but it will take me hours to write down everything the eating disorder will take from you, there are so many.

Eating disorders are not fun. They only hurt you in the end. I learned that the hard way. I know how you feel (even though you might not believe that, I do). Bulimia is the hardest eating disorder because it is the least understood. I had it for over 5 years, have been to four different hospitals (one I stayed in for almost a year and wasn't allowed any visits from family or friends, they couldn't even call but once a week!), and lost everything. I'm proud to say that I have been doing well for almost a year now. Listen, try to pick yourself up. Go to a counselor that you trust. Tell him/her EVERYTHING. He/She will help you. It's going to be hard and long, but you can do it. Good luck!

February 22, 2002

20404
alice-

many people probably tell you this, but you really saved me from making the dumbest decision in my life. i wanted to be thin like they promote... everywhere. and i didn't know how i...

alice-

many people probably tell you this, but you really saved me from making the dumbest decision in my life. i wanted to be thin like they promote... everywhere. and i didn't know how i was going to do it. i was going to resort to what i thought would be a shortcut — being bulimic. thanks a lot because after reading a comment you made, i knew that wasn't the way to go. thanks

sincerely,
relieved

February 22, 2002

20950
Dear Alice,

My daughter died of heart failure and that was attributed to her long-term practice of bulimia. Her name was Julie and she died this year on the 24th of July, 2002. If anyone is in...

Dear Alice,

My daughter died of heart failure and that was attributed to her long-term practice of bulimia. Her name was Julie and she died this year on the 24th of July, 2002. If anyone is in doubt as to whether they should stop the bulimia, I, as a grieving mother, have to say stop please before it is too late. Julie tried time and time again, but not before it was too late to stop for her. Julie was only 34, I should have had more time