Warning Signs Of Bulimia

Chances are you have heard of bulimia. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that manifests through eating large amounts of food (also known as bingeing) and ridding your body of that food in some way, whether it is through vomiting, exercising, or laxative abuse (also known as purging). Maybe you are questioning if someone you know is struggling with this eating disorder. Unfortunately, bulimia can be a difficult eating disorder to spot, as those suffering are often increasingly private and secretive. Yet if you know the warning signs and what to look out for, you have a better chance of identifying someone struggling with bulimia.

Binge eating is one of the most obvious signs that someone is struggling with bulimia. Binge eating typically occurs during a short period of time, resulting in some level of discomfort due to feelings of fullness. This intense urge to eat often begins as a way to deal with uncomfortable emotions, but can rapidly become an obsessive pattern. The obsessiveness that often ensues with bulimics can make it easier to spot the warning signs that may indicate the presence of bingeing.

Missing Food

If you have noticed significant amounts of food missing from your refrigerator or pantry, you may be noticing a telltale sign of bulimia. If you are missing food from your kitchen, there is a good chance you will find empty wrappers, containers, or bags hidden elsewhere in the home.

Secrecy Around Food

Those suffering from bulimia often experience guilt and shame around their food intake. Maintaining secrecy around food is a way bulimics maintain a facade of “normalcy.” These individuals may hide food in their room, bathroom, car, anywhere that it might be out of sight from others. Also, they may leave their house (or their job) to eat. This way, the bulimic can binge on as much food as they desire, without having to be confronted by someone they know.

No Weight Changes Regardless of Food Intake

If you suspect someone you know is struggling with bulimia, an obvious first sign is the quantity of food intake. Yet more suspicious is if there are no weight changes regardless of the immense amounts of food being eaten. Important to remember here is that eating disorders are sneaky, and bulimia is not immune to this sneakiness. This means that bulimics may attempt to trick their loved ones into thinking they have not binged throughout the day, saying things like “I am so hungry” or “I have not eaten at all today” to help mitigate questions about lack of weight fluctuations.

General Warning Signs of Bingeing

  • Disappearance of food
  • Eating large quantities of food at one sitting
  • Finding hidden food, wrappers, etc.
  • Eating to the point of discomfort
  • Secrecy around food

The physical discomfort and emotions that arise following a binge can leave bulimics feeling anxious and overwhelmed. The desperation resulting from a binge frequently creates the urge to purge. While purging is traditionally viewed as throwing up, purging can also take the form of exercising or misuse of laxatives or diuretics.

Getting Up Immediately After Meals

If you suspect someone you know may be bulimic, begin to take note of behaviors following a meal. If he or she is immediately getting up and leaving the table, this may arouse some suspicion in you, even more so if they go directly to the bathroom. Although purging (via inducing vomiting) is most often carried out in a bathroom over the toilet or in the shower. Yet this is not the only place bulimics purge. These individuals can be very good at throwing up anywhere, in a secretive manner. They may vomit into containers and hide those containers in their room or somewhere else throughout the home; or they may purge outside. Obviously, if you are smelling vomit in a bathroom or elsewhere in your home, this may be an indicator of purging.

Use of Laxatives or Diuretics

Laxatives and diuretic use, which can be difficult to notice, are other ways that bulimics carry out purging behavior. Using laxatives and/or diuretics is another attempt for individuals to flush their bodies and rid themselves of the food they have taken in. While this has been proven to be an ineffective way to control weight, or get rid of unwanted food and calories, many bulimics continue to swear by these methods. Laxative abuse is extremely dangerous and can cause serious side effects to one’s health.

Warning Signs of Purging

  • Going to bathroom immediately following eating
  • Use of laxatives, diuretics
  • Spending a long period of time in bathroom
  • Secrecy (locked doors, running water) while in bathroom
  • Smell of vomit

Bulimia can be life threatening, and should be taken very seriously. Bulimia is a disease that needs not only professional psychological treatment but also medical intervention. If you suspect you or someone you know is struggling with bulimia or any other eating disorder, please call the toll-free, confidential hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

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