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Bulimia is a serious mental illness where people feel that they have lost control over their eating. People with this condition often evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. They are caught in a cycle of eating large quantities of food (called binging), vomiting, and taking laxatives or diuretics (called purging) to prevent weight gain. These behaviors can dominate daily life and lead to difficulties in multiple areas of life including relationships and social situations. It is important to get help for bulimia as soon as possible as it can seriously detract from one’s health. Therapy and medications often can help individuals get back on track and develop a healthy body image and eating habits.

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Disappearing Food

Individuals with bulimia may strive to hide as much as possible about this condition. A person with bulimia might prefer to eat alone or in the privacy of their own bedroom. Sometimes they may remove food from kitchen cabinets or pantries in order to keep it with them or to eat it when they can be alone. If you notice that food is disappearing, it could be a sign that a loved one is coping with an eating disorder.

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Excessive Exercising

Although not typical of bulimia, excessive exercise can be a factor in the condition. Sometimes a person with bulimia will exercise excessively after binging. If you are concerned that a friend or loved one is demonstrating signs of bulimia coupled with increased exercise, it’s worth taking note of your findings. It’s not uncommon for people with bulimia to engage in even mild exercising like walking as a complement to the purging they do.

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Disappearing after Meals

Many individuals with bulimia find that privacy after a meal is a must. They might hold off for up to an hour or two, especially when they are in social situations, but eventually, they'll need to purge. They understand that their secretive behavior in this regard is not going to be acceptable to family or others, but they are compelled to do it nonetheless. Eating disorders are often fueled by a sense of compulsion.

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Eating in Secret

Eating in secret is a major aspect of bulimia. Many people with this condition go to great lengths to hide it from everyone. They may hide their food in their rooms or eat somewhere out of the public eye. Both binging and purging are behaviors they don’t want to share with anyone.

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Constant Weight Fluctuations

People who have bulimia may gain and lose a huge amount of weight in a short period. This weight fluctuation is commonly due to re-hydration and fluid shifting. In some cases, individuals may experience severe edema, a condition characterized by an excess of fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body. Weight inconsistencies can be challenging--not only physiologically, but also from a psychological point of view. In addition, compensatory behaviors such as laxative use, vomiting, and diuretics can cause dangerous shifts in weight variance. Often, these purging behaviors promote initial weight loss due to loss of fluid and dehydration; however, this type of weight loss is often temporary.

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Using Laxatives and Diuretics

Using laxatives and diuretics is very common among people with this eating disorder. This is a difficult bulimia sign to notice, but if you suspect a loved one has this condition, you might check rubbish bins for wrappers that confirm the use of these products. Using laxatives regularly is not healthy for people with this condition. Moreover, they do not lead to fat loss—only water loss, which is decidedly unhealthy.

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Discoloration or Staining of the Teeth

Bulimia can be especially damaging to the teeth. Vomit is toxic because it contains stomach acids. These acids break down food in your stomach so your body can digest it. When in the mouth, the acids are corrosive enough to wear away at the enamel that covers and protects your teeth. Brushing your teeth too hard after you vomit can also contribute to tooth decay. The color and texture change as the erosion gets worse. Teeth may be weaker and more brittle than usual as a result of repeated purging. Bulimia can also change the shape and length of the teeth.

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Isolation and Withdrawal

Many individuals with bulimia pull away from family and friends. Feeling isolated may even exacerbate their symptoms, however. Maintaining their secrets can become challenging and upsetting. Alone with their thoughts and emotions, people with this condition may find they focus even more intensely on their weight, food, and purging, which can make this health problem even worse.

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Talking about Food Can Lead to Anger and Frustration

Confronting a person you suspect has bulimia is difficult. The individual can become angry if they feel their privacy has been breached. They may feel defensive about their condition, which is natural. However, therapists can help both individuals and their families. Angry feelings can lead to acknowledgment and acceptance of the problem. It may ultimately encourage them to seek out help.

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Chronic Fatigue

Many people with bulimia suffer from chronic fatigue. All that binging and purging can take a toll on a person physically and mentally. A chronic focus on food, meal planning, purging, exercising can make an individual feel perpetually exhausted. Without adequate rest and stress management, insomnia and depression can ensue.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.