Effects of Bulimia: Bulimia Side Effects

Detailed info on effects of bulimia; physical, medical, psychological. Includes bulimia side effects, risks of bulimia, dangers of bulimia.

The effects of bulimia nervosa, a dangerous eating disorder, can sometimes be deadly. The cycle of binging and purging can affect major bodily functions like digestion and fertility. The overeating, associated with bulimia binging, dangerously stretches the stomach while bulimia purging affects the gums, teeth, esophagus and other parts of the body. Bulimia side effects include a wide range of physical and psychological effects; some, of which, can be life-threatening.

General Effects of Bulimia

Easily identifiable effects of bulimia nervosa are found in the mouths and on the extremities of bulimics. Bulimic purging through vomiting damages the teeth through decalcification. This weakens and erodes teeth often causing cavities. The effects of bulimia in the mouth also extend to mouth trauma and sores. Hands are often used by bulimics to induce vomiting. The dangers of bulimia to hands include bruises, calluses, scarring and general injury.

Other risks of bulimia include:

  • Swelling due to the use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Muscle weakness, near paralysis
  • Loss of subcutaneous fat
  • Feeling cold (hypothermia)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies causing involuntary muscle spasm
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes (from the strain of vomiting)
  • Dehydration
  • Breathing vomit into the lungs
  • Impaired kidney function, kidney damage
  • Seizures

Stress placed on the heart, lungs, kidneys and other systems by bulimia can ultimately result in death.

Risks of Bulimia on the Heart

Bulimia side effects on the heart, lungs and kidneys are some of the most serious and can result in the need for immediate medical intervention. One of the effects of bulimia is abnormally low potassium levels in the blood and this can lead to irregular heartbeats known as heart arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are a danger of bulimia that can lead to heart attack, heart failure, heart rupture and heart muscle damage, and ultimately, death.

Gastrointestinal Dangers of Bulimia

Due to the repeated over-stretching of the stomach and the repeated exposure to stomach acid from vomiting, some of the most dangerous bulimia side effects are to the gastrointestinal (the stomach and intestines) system. Common complaints include stomach pain and problems swallowing, possibly due to an inflamed esophagus. Bulimics may also experience mouth sores and a swelling of the salivary glands causing a "pouch-like" appearance at the corners of their mouths. One of the other dangers of bulimia is developing reliance on laxatives for bowl movements.

More risks of bulimia to the gastrointestinal system include:

  • Rupture of the esophagus
  • Infections of the esophagus
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Weakened rectal walls

Effects of Bulimia on Fertility

Bulimics commonly experience menstrual irregularities as a side effect of bulimia and in severe cases there may be a complete loss of menstruation. This impacts a woman's ability to get pregnant and bulimia may also affect a woman's ability to carry a child to term.

Psychological Effects of Bulimia

While the physical side effects of bulimia are visible on scans and in tests, the psychological dangers of bulimia are just as real. Many people become bulimic, in part, due to a psychological disorder such as body dysmorphic disorder, depression or a personality disorder (causes of bulimia). Unfortunately bulimia only worsens any preexisting psychological disorders and may create additional psychological effects.

Typical psychological side effects of bulimia include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety, often over food and eating
  • Feelings of shame and guilt over bulimia, often leading to social isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide attempts
  • Substance abuse

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2022, January 4). Effects of Bulimia: Bulimia Side Effects, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: January 12, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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