Bulimia: The Hidden Effects

Our friends at Healthline contacted us about a cause they are passionate about: informing women about the negative impact of bulimia. After all, according to ANAD - the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders - an estimated 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime. This means millions of women, around the world, suffer from bulimia. In the guest post below, author Kristeen Cherney explores the devastating impact of bulimia on the body. 



Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by both binge eating and purging. The Office on Women’s Health estimates that up to 90 percent of bulimics are women. It is an isolating condition, which can also cause feelings of shame. Some of the most noticeable signs of the disorder include:

·        weight loss

·        dry skin

·        facial swelling

·        discolored teeth and bleeding gums

·        scars on hands

The problem is that not all signs of bulimia are visible. This can pose challenges for loved ones to identify the disorder among family and friends. Furthermore, the hidden effects can make some patients wrongly assume their habits aren’t causing much bodily harm. Among the common hidden effects are:

·        heart disease

·        infertility

·        suicidal thoughts

·        extreme weakness and fatigue

Increased Risk for Heart Disease

Lack of exercise and a diet high in fat are common factors for heart disease. Still, there are numerous other factors that can increase the risk for heart problems—including bulimia. Purging puts a lot of stress on the circulatory system, resulting in a loss of electrolytes during every episode. Binge eating also puts stress on the heart by increasing blood pressure to accommodate for large amounts of food.

Overtime, bulimia can cause irregularities in both blood pressure and heart rate. This can weaken the muscle, ultimately leading to heart failure.


Infertility is a problem with bulimia because it causes abnormalities in menstrual cycles. In fact, some women may not ovulate at all. Even if a woman with bulimia does get pregnant, she may miscarry. Other issues include:

·        stillbirth

·        breech birth

·        cognitive defects in baby

·        premature birth

Suicidal Thoughts

Depression is commonplace in bulimia. You may notice someone with bulimia preferring to stay at home more often, or is in an overall moody state. With some close observation, you can detect depression in a loved one. Suicidal thoughts aren’t as easy to spot. Not all patients with depression are suicidal. However, the Weight-Control Information Network points out that patients with eating disorders are more likely to be suicidal than people without these disorders.


Not having normal eating patterns causes visible fatigue from time to time. Bulimia can also cause muscle weakness. This not interferes with exercise, but it also makes everyday tasks difficult to complete. Gradually, weakness will become more prominent just like the rest of the health effects of bulimia.


 Binge Eating Disorder. (2012, December). Retrieved from http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/binge.htm

 Bulimia Nervosa Fact Sheet. (2012, July 16). Retrieved from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bulimia-nervosa.html


Author Bio: Kristeen Cherney is a freelance health and lifestyle writer who also has a certificate in nutrition. Her work has been published on numerous health-related websites. Previously, she worked as a communications and marketing professional. Kristeen holds a BA in Communication from Florida Gulf Coast University, and is currently pursuing an MA in English with a concentration in rhetoric and cultural studies. When she's not writing or studying, she enjoys walking, kick-boxing, yoga, and traveling.