Bulimia can be quite harmful to the body in the long run. Some health consequences that result from long-term bulimia symptoms include:
- Heart problems, such as irregular heartbeat, low pulse, low blood pressure, weakened heart muscle, or heart failure
- Problems with fluids and electrolytes, including dehydration and low levels of potassium, magnesium, and sodium
- Intestinal problems, such as constipation, irregular bowel movements, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping
- Mouth problems, including cavities, tooth enamel erosion, gum disease, and sensitivity to hot and cold foods
- Mental health problems, including depression, fear of gaining weight, anxiety, dizziness, shame, and low self-esteem
- Throat and esophagus soreness, irritation, or tears
- Stomach problems, including ulcers, pain, and delayed emptying
- Abrasion of knuckles
- Dry skin
- Cheek swelling or soreness
- Blood in vomit
- Irregular or absent period
- Muscle fatigue.
Most medical complications attributed to bulimia result from electrolyte imbalance and repeated purging behaviors. Loss of potassium due to vomiting, for example, damages the heart muscle, increasing the risk for cardiac arrest. Repeated vomiting also causes inflammation of the esophagus and possible erosion of tooth enamel, as well as damage to the salivary glands.
Some individuals with bulimia struggle with addictions (to drugs and alcohol, for example) and compulsive stealing. Like those with anorexia, many people with bulimia suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other psychiatric illnesses.