Common Warning Signs of Bulimia

Bulimia (bingeing and purging) is an isolating, secretive illness that prevents many people from enjoying a full and rewarding life. You might be wondering, how does bulimia start? There are many signs that can show whether or not someone is experiencing bulimia.

We share the more common symptoms and warning signs for bulimia below.
  • Consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time (bingeing)
  • Use of behaviors to compensate for calories consumed, including purging (making yourself vomit), restricting/fasting, over-exercising or using laxatives, diuretics, ipecac syrup or enemas
  • Evidence of binges, including disappearance of large amounts of food or appearance of wrappers/packaging
  • Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom during or after meals, packaging of laxatives or diuretics, rigid adherence to exercise schedules, etc.
  • Feeling “out of control” or shame over how much you eat
  • Fear of gaining weight or being “fat”
  • Self-esteem and self-worth tied heavily to body shape and weight
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and “normal” activities/routines
  • Failing performance in work, school and athletic engagements

Symptoms of Bulimia

What do people with bulimia experience with this eating disorder? Although symptoms may vary per patient, we’ve listed common symptoms of bulimia nervosa below so you can understand this serious condition in more detail.

  • Bingeing more than one time per week
  • Purging more than one time per week, including self-induced vomiting, laxative/diet pill/diuretic abuse, excessive exercise, chewing/spitting of food, or insulin misuse
  • Bradycardia and orthostasis (a form of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from sitting or lying down)
  • Low normal to abnormal labs; can include electrolyte abnormalities
  • Swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Discolored or stained teeth (sometimes called "bulimia teeth")

Bulimia vs. Anorexia

Bulimia and Anorexia are often confused, because people with each disorder can engage in similar behaviors of bingeing, purging, and restricting behaviors. They also both focus on weight and body image. Individuals diagnosed with Anorexia are commonly underweight, which is not the case for most people with Bulimia. However, it’s important to note that a person cannot be diagnosed with both Bulimia and Anorexia at the same time, although an individual may experience both disorders separately over the course of their illness.

Bulimia vs. Purging Disorder

Bulimia and Purging Disorder (which is included in the OSFED category of diagnoses) are similar in that individuals with both disorders engage in compensatory purging behaviors. However, people who have Purging Disorder typically endorse purging after eating an average-sized meal or snack, whereas people who have bulimia more commonly purge following a binge episode.

Get help for Bulimia Symptoms

If you are, or if someone you know is, showing symptoms of bulimic behavior (binging or purging or both), you should be aware that there are very serious health risks and complications linked to bulimia. With specialized treatment, a full and lasting recovery is possible.

Our eating disorder treatment centers have helped diverse patients of all ages get the treatment they need — and deserve — to break the vicious cycle of bingeing and purging.

Please call us today at 877-825-8584 to speak confidentially with an Eating Recovery Center Masters-level clinician. There is no cost to call us and discuss your concerns.

Together we can help you recover your life and enjoy a bright future.

Learn More About Bulimia Nervosa

What is bulimia?

Although research about bulimia is ongoing, there is a lot you can learn about this eating disorder to understand how to get help or help a loved one. Learn more about bulimia, including the causes, symptoms and available treatment options.

What causes bulimia?

As with other eating disorders, bulimia has no singular cause. However, the evolving scientific literature suggests that this pattern of disordered eating develops from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors.

What are the health risks associated with bulimia?

There are many health risks associated with bulimia. Learn about the short-term and long-term risks to understand the effects of this disorder.

How is bulimia treated?

Bulimia treatment is unique to each patient’s needs. Medical stabilization, psychiatric stabilization, nutritional rehabilitation and weight restoration (when appropriate) are considered when determining a patient’s treatment plan.

Learn about bulimia facts and statistics.

There are many misconceptions about bulimia, including the fact that it is simply vomiting after meals.

Do I have Bulimia? Take our Bulimia Quiz.

If you or a loved one struggle with some of the symptoms described here, it may be worth speaking with a clinician and considering treatment options.

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