Consequence of Going Untreated

Bulimia is defined by repetitive, secretive binging on food followed by purging or vomiting to rid the body of the food eaten. The type of purging will determine the type of consequences experienced by the person living with bulimia. Different body systems will be affected and serious medical complications can occur. If left untreated, bulimia can be devastating to the body. In the worst cases, it can even be deadly. If you have identified bulimia as a problem for you or someone you love, allowing it to go untreated only means a lifetime of medical problems.

Bulimia Basics

One of the more common eating disorders, with bulimia or bulimia nervosa, purging is not the only way to rid the body of unwanted food. Those who also use laxatives, diuretics, enemas or excessive exercise in addition to purging can still be diagnosed with bulimia.
Despite the extreme physical consequences, bulimia is a psychological disorder and requires psychological treatment. The cycle of overindulging in food and then purging that food can become an obsession, and the compulsive nature of the behavior is part of what classifies it as a psychological issue.

Here are a few more bulimia facts:

  • Bulimia usually follows a series of unsuccessful diets.
  • It is estimated that three percent of American women experience bulimia at one point or another.
  • It is estimated that six percent of teen girls and five percent of young women in college struggle with bulimia.
  • About 10 percent of those diagnosed with bulimia are men.
  • Co-occurring disorders like addiction and compulsions affect between 20 and 40 percent of women with bulimia.
  • Weight fluctuations are common with bulimia.
  • Shame is much higher among bulimics than it is among other eating disorders, decreasing the likelihood that they will seek the treatment they need.
  • Binge eating is usually an emotional response to an uncomfortable situation or feeling.
  • Control is often more of an issue than body image for those who live with bulimia. Purging helps bulimics feel a measure of control, and it is this control that they seek.

Self-Induced Vomiting

Self-induced vomiting usually means problems in the mouth and throat due to the repetitive exposure to acid from the gastrointestinal system. Eroded tooth enamel can mean an increase in cavities and weakening of the teeth. Sensitivity to hot and cold food is not uncommon, and swelling or soreness of glands in the mouth and throat can be painful.

The esophagus and colon are heavily affected by repeated vomiting and other bulimic behaviors. The acid in the stomach can often start to come up on its own over time, resulting in an issue with reflux. Ulcers, strictures or ruptures of the esophagus are also common when repeated purging is an issue.


Irregular menstrual periods or a lack of menstrual periods are common when malnutrition and weight fluctuations are an issue, as they often are when an eating disorder like bulimia is a problem. Without the nutrients needed to maintain cells, the body starts to break down. It becomes apparent through the resulting lackluster skin, hair and nails. The immune system is also weakened and those who struggle with bulimia are often more susceptible to illness than others.

All body systems are affected by the malnutrition as well, and intestinal and systemic issues can be the source of a number of chronic health problems for those living with bulimia. Again, depending upon the method purging, these issues will vary. For example, misusing diuretics can create abnormal fluid retention called edema. Excessive use of laxatives can cause the body to become dependent upon them and normal elimination becomes impossible – surgeries are often required to fix the situation. Using both laxatives and diuretics can result in electrolyte imbalance to deadly effect.

If pregnant, the malnutrition issues experienced by the mother will cause harm to the developing fetus. Complications with the brain and body development can mean a lifetime of problems for the child after birth.

Find Bulimia Treatment

There are outpatient and inpatient treatment options for bulimia that can help those living with the disorder to heal and create more healthy lifestyles for themselves. Hospitalization is often required at the beginning of treatment in order to treat the illnesses caused by bulimic behaviors, and following up with inpatient treatment is often recommended to ensure that relapse is avoided and positive eating behaviors are followed.

If you would like help finding bulimia treatment near you, contact us today at the phone number listed above.