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Dangers of bulimia nervosa on your health and well-being

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extremes. People struggling with this condition move back and forth between periods of binge eating and fasting, and the result can take quite a significant toll on both their physical and mental well-being.

It's essential to learn about the dangers of bulimia on both the mind and body—but equally important to remember that help is available, with several treatments shown to help people overcome this illness.

Last updated on 
January 8, 2024
Dangers of bulimia nervosa
In this article

Physical dangers of bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a mental health disorder, but it manifests in a very physical way. Issues stemming from cycles of binging and purging can impact nearly every system in the body.

Specific bulimia nervosa symptoms will vary from person to person and depend on many factors, including how long someone has struggled with BN and the type of compensatory behaviors they use to purge—i.e., excessive exercise vs. self-induced vomiting, etc.

But overall, some common bulimia symptoms can cause physical danger or discomfort.

Oral cavity
Gastrointestinal
Cardiac

Mental health dangers of bulimia nervosa

While bulimia nervosa heavily impacts the body, it resides in the mind. And the mental health issues caused by BN can be equally as dangerous as their physical impacts.

Like other eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (AN) and binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa has a high rate of comorbidity (co-occurrence) with other mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders of several kinds, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorder.1

These additional issues can be challenging to deal with on their own. Still, together, they can create even more mental health dangers of BN, making someone more susceptible to social isolation, which can contribute to these mental health conditions getting even worse. Sadly, people with bulimia have been found to have higher rates of both suicide attempts and suicidal ideation than those without eating disorders.2

That BN is so frequently intertwined with these other medical complications is why it's imperative for someone struggling with the condition to not only heal their physical body but also work with a mental health professional to ensure they can reach a better place in their mind and heart.

Finding help for bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a dangerous condition, but it doesn't have to be a lifelong struggle. Many treatments and therapies have been shown to help people overcome both the mental and physical dangers of this illness.

Within Health: Remote treatment options

With a team of multidisciplinary experts, we strive to address the various issues that may be driving someone's eating disorder and work to help our patients how they need it, creating individual treatment plans for each person based on their specific needs.

Our entire program can be followed from home through our app and website, and meals and medical equipment are delivered directly to you.

Get help today

If you or a loved one are struggling with bulimia nervosa or another eating disorder, it's essential to reach out for help, regardless of where you look. It's often the first step toward a healthier and happier future.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. Brewerton, T. D., Lydiard, R. B., Herzog, D. B., et. al. (1995). Comorbidity of axis I psychiatric disorders in bulimia nervosa. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 56(2), 77-80.
  2. Patel, R. S., Machado, T., & Tankersley, W. E. (2021). Eating Disorders and Suicidal Behaviors in Adolescents with Major Depression: Insights from the US Hospitals. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 11(5), 78.
  3. Mehler, P., Rylander, M. (2015). Bulimia Nervosa – medical complications. Journal of Eating Disorders, 3, 12.
  4. Beydoun, A. S., Stabenau, K. A., Altman, K. W., & Johnston, N. (2023). Cancer Risk in Barrett's Esophagus: A Clinical Review. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 24(7), 6018.

FAQs

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