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Health Consequences of Bulimia

Bulimia can be very harmful to the body.
(Click Effects of Bulimia to find out how bulimia affects your health.)

How Is It Treated?

Different types of therapy have worked to help people with bulimia. This may include individual, group, and family therapy. A class of medicines also used for the treatment of depression has been effective when used in conjunction with therapy. These medicines change the way certain chemicals work in the brain.
(Click Treatment for Bulimia for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.)


Bulimia can cause problems with a woman's period. She may not get it every 4 weeks, or it may stop altogether. However, researchers don't think this affects a woman's chances of getting pregnant after she recovers from the condition.
If a woman with active bulimia gets pregnant, these problems may result:
  • Miscarriage
  • High blood pressure in the mother
  • Baby isn't born alive (stillborn)
  • Low birth weight
  • Low Apgar score (tests done after birth to make sure the baby is healthy)
  • During the delivery, baby may come out feet- or buttocks-first
  • Birth by C-section
  • Premature birth
  • Depression in the mother after the baby is born.

Helping Someone With Bulimia

If you know someone with bulimia, you can help:
  • Set a time to talk. Set aside a time to talk privately about your concerns with your friend. Be open and honest. Make sure you talk in a place away from distractions.
  • Tell your friend about your concerns. Tell your friend about specific times when you were worried about her eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may show a problem that needs professional help.
  • Ask your friend to talk about these concerns. Your friend could talk to a counselor or doctor who knows about eating disorders. If you feel comfortable, offer to help make an appointment or go with your friend to the appointment.
  • Avoid conflicts or a battle of the wills with your friend. If your friend doesn't admit to a problem, repeat your feelings and the reasons for them. Be a supportive listener.
  • Don't place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend. Do not use accusatory statements like, "You just need to eat," or "You are acting irresponsibly." Instead, use statements like, "I'm concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch," or "It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting."
  • Avoid giving simple solutions. Don't say, "If you'd just stop, then everything would be fine!"
  • Express your continued support. Remind your friend that you care and want her to be healthy and happy.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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