Individuals with bulimia tend to feel an immediate relief of guilt and shame upon purging, but the cycle will only repeat itself. Furthermore, the damage done to the body itself can be difficult or even impossible to reverse.
Internal Effects of Bulimia
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are the most immediate side effects of bulimia. Even individuals who induce vomiting by consuming large quantities of water upset the natural balance of their body. Laxatives and diuretics can rapidly enhance the effects.
Low levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium and protein also harm the body. In general, the side effects of bulimia and poor nutrition include, but aren’t limited to:
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Chronic constipation
- Kidney failure
- Ruptured stomach and esophagus
- Swelling in hands and feet, sometimes painful
Poor nutrition makes the individual more susceptible to disease and injury, particularly when undertaking strenuous activities. Recovery times are extended and certain medications may affect the body differently or not at all, particularly if the medication is purged.
External Effects of Bulimia
The side effects of bulimia aren’t limited to internal health issues. Possible external effects include:
- Bad breath
- Broken blood vessels in eyes
- Chapped lips
- Chronic sore throat and scratchy voice
- Mouth sores
- Swollen cheeks
- Tooth decay
- Weight gain.
The mental effects of bulimia are just as dangerous as the physical. The lack of weight loss, or even weight gain that results from bulimia, can advance the disorder. Most individuals are already suffering from depressing or low-body image, both of which can be aggravated by food obsession or the failure to “succeed” at losing weight.
In a 1995 meta-analysis of 42 studies concerning eating disorder patient mortality, 54 percent of the 178 deaths were from complications and 27 percent were due to suicide. The risk of suicide in patients aged 15 to 24 was 75 times greater than those without eating disorders (Sullivan, 1995).
The risk of fatality or irreversible damage significantly decreases the earlier that bulimia is caught and treated. In general, individuals who begin treatment earlier report fewer flare-ups and a more stable defeat over the disorder. Side effects are also more likely to be reversed the earlier they’re observed when treating bulimia.