Home / Family Articles / Signs of bulimia

Signs of bulimia


Written by:

What is bulimia?

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder.  It is characterised by regular binge eating, followed by desperate efforts to limit weight gain.  For the bulimic person eating becomes like a compulsion.  The desire to stop is often there, but the resilience and inner resolve of the sufferer is so low that they inevitably give in and can consume massive amounts of calories in a short space of time.Looking for signs of bulimia is difficult as many sufferers hide it well,if you feel someone you know has the condition care has to be taken in approaching the subject.

Feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety then overwhelm the bulimic, who will go to almost any lengths to purge their body of the food that has just been devoured.  In a panic, sufferers may exercise madly to the point of exhaustion, induce vomiting, or take a laxative of some form.  It is a daily battle between the need to eat compulsively and the desire to lose weight or remain skinny.  Sufferers feel out of control, and their attempts to regain order in their life are constantly thwarted by emotions they simply cannot manage.signs of bulimia

There is no one thing that causes bulimia and the guilt associated with it makes sufferers very secretive, so it can be very difficult to spot.  If you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering, then watch out for these signs and symptoms of the disorder:

Signs of Binging

  • Food disappears – bulimics are compelled to hide their obsession with food and purging, and so you may find stashes of empty wrappers secreted about the house, or bins stuffed with packaging that suggests excessive consumption.  Knowing that food is available gives the bulimic some comfort, so you may also discover secret hoards of food, stock-piled for the next binge
  • Eating Large Amounts of Food – some bulimia sufferers are content to binge in the context of normal eating environments.  Be suspicious if this happens often with no obvious signs of weight gain, as this is a sure indicator that meals are being quickly followed by periods of purging
  • Secret Eating – some bulimics prefer to eat in private, and night-time excursions to the kitchen may be commonplace.  Other signs of secret eating are disappearing to the shops alone on food runs, or actively avoiding mealtimes
  • Irregular Eating Patterns – in seeking to gain some control over the condition some sufferers will swing violently from over-eating to not eating at all.  This all-or-nothing approach is characteristic of some bulimics, and relatively easy to spot if you are vigilant
  • Lack of Control with Eating – when food is available, some bulimia sufferers simply cannot stop themselves from indulging.  They may continue until they become physically uncomfortable, or even sick

Signs of Purging

  • Visits to the Bathroom After Eating – bulimics will often seek to purge immediately after eating.  They may mask the sound of vomiting with running water
  • Excessive Exercising – again, often straight after eating. Activities are typically high energy and aerobic
  • Smell of Vomit – the unpleasant but distinctive aroma of sick is a good sign that a person has been making themselves vomit.  They may seek to cover the smell with scent, mouthwash or mints
  • Use of Diet Pills or Laxatives – or any other formula that limits appetite, induces vomiting, or purges the body through induced evacuation of waste

Physical Symptoms

If the bulimic is very adept at hiding their condition but you still have suspicions, then look out for these physical symptoms that will help to confirm if you are right:

  • Discoloured teeth – from exposure to stomach acid
  • Not Being Underweight – curiously this phenomenon results when the purging working just well enough to offset the binging, and is one of the reasons why the condition is difficult to spot
  • Frequent Weight Fluctuations – can occur when prolonged periods of resolve are exhibited by the sufferer in relation to either binging or purging
  • Puffy Cheeks – from regular vomiting
  • Calluses or Scars– on the hands, from placing fingers in the throat to induce sickness

How You Can Help

Sufferers of bulimia need to acknowledge they have a problem if the treatments available are to work.  You can help at first by offering a non-judgemental ear to them, and letting them know that you understand they have an issue and are ready to help them.  Making sure that family and close friends are aware of the problem can also assist.  Serious health complications can arise from the disorder, so if the sufferer may need to be gently led to seek professional advice and help. Visit Bulimia help for advice on this condition.




About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, whatsapp plus,travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

View all posts by