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Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms include:

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food at one time
  • Feeling like eating is out of control
  • Making yourself throw up
  • Taking laxatives, enemas, water pills, or diet pills
  • Excessive exercising
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Trouble controlling impulses
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Physical symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Menstrual problems
  • Swollen cheeks and jaw
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Bloating
  • Stained or chipped teeth, due to contact with stomach acid
  • Cuts or scars on back of hands, from scraping skin on teeth during forced vomiting

Bulimia may lead to other problems, including:

  • Dental and throat problems from stomach acid that rises during vomiting
  • Changes in body chemistry and fluids due to vomiting and abuse of laxatives or water pills

Symptoms of these complications include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint
  • Thirst
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart problems, including sudden death

People with bulimia have a high incidence of personality disorder and of treatable psychiatric conditions, including:

  • Depression, often with rapid and wide swings in mood
  • Anxiety and panic disorder
  • Drug and alcohol abuse or dependence

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about:

  • Your medical and psychological history
  • The amount of food you eat
  • The ways you to try to rid your body of food

The doctor will also perform a physical exam. They will check your teeth for signs of erosion.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests—to look for chemical imbalances
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)—to look for heart problems due to purging
  • Drug screening—to check for drug use

EKG

Heart EKG
Bulimia can lead to severe heart problems.
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

A mental health professional may also perform a psychiatric exam and/or psychological tests.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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