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The After Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is not a disease that ends the day you stop yourself from binging, laxatives and purging.  There are many long standing and disabling after effects.  After-effects that victims of this disease need to know about.  Effects that the families of those who suffer with this disease need to know of so that they can be prepared to deal with them as they emerge after the fact.

It’s been said that the side effects can be just as or more harmful to a person’s health and well being as the eating disorder itself.  This condition has such a terrible overpowering nature while it is going on, that the medical complications that can arise and cause problems including irreparable medical damage, complicating the person’s life for years into the future is not addressed.
The organs that suffer the most are: heart, kidney, brain, digestive system, bones, skin and endocrine glands.
To sum up, the long term effects of bulimia nervosa can be extremely dangerous. And treatment for this disorder becomes more complicated the longer it goes on.
The best way is to prevent these dangerous effects from happening is to treat the disease sooner rather than later.

Physical:

Some of the Physical effects that are long standing which can complicate almost every area in the body and which do not vanish once the basic problem has been addressed are:

1. Major Organ damage

Kidney damage is very common among long term bulimics. The kidneys are organs that normally correct mineral abnormalities in the body. When a body's mineral balance is constantly disturbed, as with bulimia, the kidneys are under enormous strain to correct it, so they eventually get damaged.

2. Digestive problems, Esophageal Problems & Stomach Ulcers

The digestive system is affected worst of all. The stomach experiences delays in empting its food content. Bulimics suffer from pains in the abdominal area, bloating, acid reflux, stomach ulcers and esophageal problems.  Many of these problems will never be completely fixed.
In long standing bulimia cases, the sufferers don’t even know what the feeling of being hungry or full is.  Their taste becomes distorted, making them eat strange combinations of food and experience odd cravings.

  1. Problems Eliminating
  2. Low red blood cell levels
  3. Decreased body temperature
  4. Irregular heart beat

The heart gets damaged from the constant electrolyte imbalances caused by continuous purging.  It becomes weaker the longer the bulimia continues. Bulimics have been known to die from this complication when a weak heart goes into a "heart block". This is when the heart suddenly stops beating due to extremely low potassium or other mineral deficiency induced by vomiting and laxatives abuse.

3. Weak muscles

The endocrine glands eventually stop working properly and produce fewer hormones than the body needs: this makes a person age quickly and loose muscle tone.

  1. Immune system damage & Hormonal irregularities
  2. Vocal chord damage
  3. Osteoporosis & Decreased Bone Density

Bones become weak due to the development of low bones density after many years of suffering from bulimia. People complain about their bone's aching and they have bone pain.  Their bones can break from even minimal strain or pressure.

4. Hair loss

Hair loss due to mineral and protein depletion is inevitable in long term bulimia.

  1. Dental Damage
  2. Great Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  3. Salivary Glands Which are Enlarged
  4. Dry, flaking skin

Bulimics skin looses its youthful look at a relatively young age. Common problems for bulimics are dry skin, inflammations of the skin, abnormal irritations and constant pimples.

5. Menstrual dysfunction

Menstruation becomes irregular or stops. Other bulimia side effects include difficulty conceiving a child, a larger risk of miscarriage and premature birth after conception. Some theorize that nature requires humans and animals to be healthy themselves in order to continue to propagate a species that is capable of surviving—theory of natural selection. Bulimia side effects damage a woman’s body which can physically inhibit her from having healthy children in the future.

6. Insomnia

Psychological:

The Psychological long standing side effects are also many and this disease causes irreparable harm in this area as well. 

The brain suffers from the moment bulimia starts. People have distorted thought patterns like depression and anxiety. The longer bulimia goes on the stronger the addiction to binging and purging becomes.
The long time effects of brain damage from bulimia are: suicidal thoughts, self-cutting and other self-harm symptoms. Impulsive behavior can occur and people can become less responsible for their action.

1. The patient often feels and will experience

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Out of control feelings
  4. Poor body-image
  5. Mood changes
  6. Avoidance of others
  7. Constantly thinking about food
  8. Unable to eat with others

2. Laxative and Diuretic Use

It is estimated that one third of people struggling with bulimia use laxatives, and roughly 10% take diuretics. Various effects include:

3. Laxative abuse results in:

  1. Chronic intestinal inflammation
  2. Chronic constipation
  3. Irregular bowel function
  4. Systemic toxicity

4. Diuretic abuse results in:

  1. Kidney damage
  2. Body fluid stagnation
  3. Blood pressure complication

To sum up, the long term effects of bulimia nervosa can be and usually are extremely dangerous. Treatment for this disorder obviously becomes more complicated the longer it goes on.
Most studies have shown that the best way is to prevent these dangerous effects from happening is to treat the disease sooner rather than later.
Start educating yourself and your family about what to do, what you can change at home, what to read and how you can best help the bulimic. It has been proven that good home and family support are some of the very best ways of treating this condition and adding to good therapy. But it has to be the right help and the right support. Educating yourself about this disease is of utmost importance.

Rika B.


NOTE/Disclaimer: Inclusion in our list of organizations, books, counselors, and other links and resources does not necessarily indicate a recommendation or endorsement. What is helpful for another survivor may not be right for you. As always, use your own judgment when contacting any of these organizations. Advice given at this website, or in conjunction with Joshua Childrens Foundation activities is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship but only as suggestion based on the founders personal experience as a sex abuse victim resulting in bulimia eating disorder and the healing journey from that. Articles, links, or content contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should it be inferred as such. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a specific condition. Joshua Childrens Foundation does not take any responsibility and is held harmless from any actions by anyone associated with the websites we link to.