Bulimia side effects and how it affects your body and mind

Richard Kerr's picture

Image showing the effects of bulimia on the body and mind

It’s hard enough living with bulimia without having to think about all of the nasty potential side effects and health complications that it can cause. 

However, while you can’t simply scare yourself into recovery, it is important to become informed on the possible dangers and life changing conditions that bulimia can cause.

Medical evidence into the effects of bulimia shows us that over time, bulimia has the potential to inflict irreparable damage on every single system of your body.

How does bulimia affect your body? 

The physical symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa 

Common physical symptoms of Bulimia include:

More serious and life-threatening physical side effects of bulimia include: Gastric Rupture, Irregular Heart Beats, Electrolyte imbalance and Major Organ Damage or Failure (particularly relating to your Kidneys, Pancreas and Heart).

SIGNS OF ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCE INCLUDE: Feelings of fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, confusion, fainting, restlessness and seizure. If you have any of these symptoms you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Even if you’re not ready to recover, your doctor can monitor your electrolyte levels more closely.

How does bulimia affect your brain? 

The psychological symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa 

A growing body of scientific research indicates that nutritional deficiencies, which occur as a result of bulimia,  may be responsible for the majority of the psychological symptoms associated with bulimia. The most common psychological symptoms and side effects include:

  • Anxiety (especially social anxiety)
  • Depression (and suicidal feelings)
  • Mood swings and general feeling of emotional instability (feeling out of control)
  • Inability to focus and episodes of “zoning out”
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Low self-esteem and distorted body image

Struggling with suicidal thoughts? If you find yourself experiencing suicidal thoughts, please do reach out for emotional support. Visit www.befrienders.org to find a confidential helpline in your area. 

How does bulimia affect your behaviour? 

The behavioural symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa 

Here, we’re really talking about all of those actions and behaviours that, as a bulimic, you feel compelled to do. Some of the most common behavioural symptoms of bulimia are:

  • Uncontrollable episodes of binge eating when faced with certain “trigger” foods. 
  • Withdrawal from social situations/spending more time alone. 
  • Reluctance to eat with others or in public settings.
  • Hording large quantities of food in case there is a “need” to binge. 
  • Being very secretive and telling lies. 
  • Being short tempered or hurtful towards loved ones (saying or doing things you don’t really mean in the heat of the moment)
  • Increase in impulsivity (taking more risks/ engaging in promiscuous behaviour/abusing alcohol/abusing drugs/shoplifting)

“How long will it be before I experience the side effects of bulimia?”

The amount of damage caused, the time it takes for more serious conditions associated with bulimia to develop and the particular side effects that bulimia can inflict will totally vary from person to person. There is just no way to know for sure. 

“I’m terrified of bulimia side effects but I can’t stop – Help!”

Rest assured that it is possible to fully recover from bulimia, no matter how long you have suffered with it for. If you you suffer from bulimia and are worried about the damage it is doing to your body we recommend you sign up to our Free Bulimia Recovery Ecourse. The sooner you start recovery the easier it is to recover.


The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


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