People suffering from eating disorders tend to use their eating habits and behaviours to cope with emotional distress, and often have an abnormal or unrealistic fear of food, calories and being fat. Because of this fear, people with bulimia nervosa tend to restrict their food intake. This results in periods of excessive eating and loss of control (binge eating), after which they compensate, which may be done by making themselves vomit or using laxatives (purging). They purge themselves because they fear that the binging will cause them to gain weight, and usually feel guilty and ashamed of their behaviour. This is why these behaviours are usually done in secret.

Such binge-purge cycles can be triggered by hunger or stress, or are a way to cope with emotional anxiety.

Recent studies suggest that as many as 8% of women have bulimia at some stage in their life. The condition can occur at any age, but mainly affects women aged between 16 and 40 (on average, it starts around the age of 18 or 19). Approximately 25% of bulimia sufferers are male.

Sufferers of bulimia can develop serious health issues. Many of the physical problems are similar to those of anorexia sufferers. Please see below for health hazards of certain behaviours associated with Bulimia.

Vomiting and laxatives

  • Dental problems caused by constant vomiting, since the stomach acid passing the teeth erodes the enamel
  • Water and salt imbalance can affect your heart, kidney and brain
  • Potassium levels can become very low and affect the electrical activity of the heart and brain leading to heart attacks and fits
  • Swollen facial glands
  • Severe dehydration can lead to kidney failure and stones
  • Laxatives can damage the bowel and stop it from working normally, this can lead to constipation and lots of wind. These effects can be irreversible
  • Straining due to use of laxatives can result in piles and prolapse (where your bowel leaves the body)

Over exercise

  • Dangerously low sugar levels can lead to coma and death
  • Bones are thin so can easily break
  • Muscles and joints can be damaged from increased strain
  • Destroys muscle and shape as your body eats its own flesh

Diet pills and diuretics

Diuretics (water tablets) cause dehydration and salt imbalance and damage the circulation and kidneys in a similar way to laxatives and vomiting.

Slimming drugs and appetite suppressants used to control appetite and prevent binges may work in the short term but can cause irritability, anxiety attacks, depression, paranoia, constipation, blurred vision and in some cases, psychosis or death.

  • Diet pills taken to excess can cause the body to become overactive and excitable
  • Difficulties in sleeping
  • Heart palpitations and permanent cardiovascular damage
  • You become on edge and jumpy
  • The mind becomes overactive and you become suspicious and agitated
  • Eventually, seizures or fits may develop. In those with epilepsy, appetite suppressants will substantially increase the risk of seizure