Common symptoms that may occur in someone with bulimia include secretive behaviors regarding food, including cycles of binging and purging, as well as an obsession with one's weight. Bulimia symptoms can have severe, long-term effects on the body, such as heart problems, intestinal problems, muscle fatigue, and fluid imbalances in the body. Furthermore, many people with bulimia also suffer from depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other psychiatric illnesses.
Bulimia involves binge eating and then engaging in certain behaviors in order to prevent weight gain (commonly known as "purging"). The binge eating and purging both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.
During these episodes, symptoms of bulimia include:
- Eating an excessive amount of food
- Lack of control over eating
- Self-induced vomiting
- Misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications
- Excessive exercise.
Because purging or other behavior follows the binge eating, people with bulimia usually weigh within the normal range for their age and height. This makes it harder to know if someone has bulimia.
However, like individuals with anorexia, people with bulimia may fear gaining weight, desire to lose weight, and feel intensely dissatisfied with their bodies. People with bulimia often perform the behaviors in secret, feeling disgusted and ashamed when they binge, yet relieved once they purge.