Bulimia Nervosa is the term for those who binge eat and then try to get rid of the excess calories from their body by extreme methods. There are two distinct types of bulimia that need to be addressed and distinguished between before we go any further, and they are purging and non-purging.
Purging bulimics will purposely make themselves vomit after eating large amounts of food. Non-purging bulimics can instead take on a drastic diet or turn to exercising to the extreme in an attempt to burn off the calories they ingested during their binge.
In both cases, there are signs and symptoms to look out for that can be helpful in recognizing the onset of bulimia in yourself or those around you.
1. Anxious or Depressive Behavior
One of the primary triggers for bulimia can be depression – frequently brought on by a poor body image. Depression can lead to abnormal eating habits, especially in young women, and this can manifest itself in the form of binge eating.
2. Scarring on the Hands
As unpleasant as it sounds, scars and unusual abrasions on the hands can be an indication that someone is suffering from bulimia. As purging bulimics regularly push their fingers down their throats to induce the vomiting process, over time this can cause physical scarring and callouses to appear on the fingers and hands.
3. Stained Teeth
Due to acids in the stomach contents that pass over the teeth and gums during vomiting, the teeth can become stained a slight yellow color. The acid can also cause cavities and in turn, sensitivity to cold and hot food.
4. Smelling of Vomit
As purging bulimics often go to the bathroom after their meals to throw up, they may smell of vomit afterwards. They may also try to mask the smell by excessive use of perfume, mints or gum. The bathroom may also smell of vomit after they have used it.
5. Puffy Cheeks
As the salivary glands are used during the vomiting process, someone who is throwing up a lot can sometimes look a little puffy around the cheeks. This is due to the glands swelling up due to excess use.
6. Tiredness and Thirst
Someone who is constantly getting rid of the nutrients they put into their body is going to be suffering the consequences. Fatigue will come from the fact that the body is not getting sufficient time to digest the food and extract the nutrients it needs from it. Even more potentially dangerous can be dehydration that can set in due to the fluids that are lost during the purging process.
7. Excessive Exercising
For non-purging bulimics, the best method for burning off all of the excess calories consumed during a binge is through extreme exercise regimes, especially after a large meal. A good indication that someone may be suffering from bulimia is if they never seem to gain weight despite being a heavy eater. Rapid fluctuations in their weight can also be an indication that something is wrong.