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Bulimia Face: The Physical Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Face: The Physical Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that consists of excessive binge-eating and purging and may easily lead to serious physical effects on the body and displays the appearance of bulimia face. Binge-eating or “binging” implies that a person may eat large amounts of food, consume thousands of calories in one sitting, and then feel shame and disgust, leading to purging. People who form this offsetting habit or mindset tend to face the consequences of bulimia. Warning signs of this behavior do not include only eating within a two-hour window and large portions. There are several reasons someone may be diagnosed with bulimia, but lack of control over eating or displaying inappropriate behavior like mood changes to avoid weight gain are common signs of the disorder.

Side Effects of Bulimia on the Body

Undergoing these conditions for a distinct period may expose the internal body to danger due to the constant repetition of binging and purging. Appearance-wise, a person may hide the disorder for some time, but organs and physical health deplete. If treated quickly, individuals can recover and heal the physical harm done against the body. However, without professional assistance, the disorder may be life-threatening. Physical effects of bulimia may include:

  • Dental health may decrease
  • Nutritional deprivation
  • Hair may appear on the face and body
  • Hair and nails may become brittle
  • Change in facial appearance
  • Compulsive hand-washing causes the knuckles and fingers to develop sores, scratches, and dry skin
  • Spontaneous vomiting
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Severe constipation
  • Loss of bone density
  • Risk for bone breakage and fractures

Self-induced vomiting may contribute to the puffiness in the face or “bulimia face.” After a long duration of constant purging, suddenly stopping would lead to a person displaying bulimia face. Swollen cheeks are created by swelling in the salivary glands and appear a few weeks after a person stops purging.

Long Term Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

Individuals who endured bulimia nervosa may experience long-term effects from the past affliction, depending on how long an individual waited to receive treatment before recovery. In addition, undernutrition causes a decrease in bone density and increases the chance of living with osteoporosis, so one’s bone strength continues to weaken. However, this is less likely to occur unless individuals face long-term anorexia nervosa. 

Eating disorders can severely impact cardiovascular health since the body is not getting enough fuel to pump blood to the heart and, therefore, the risk of heart failure rises. Additionally, there are effects that binge-eating episodes have on the brain! The brain, weighing only three or so pounds, consumes up to one-fifth of the body’s calorie intake. Depriving the brain of energy means it will have a more challenging time functioning and may interfere with brain development or performance in the future.

How Long Before Bulimia Damages Esophagus

Due to the high level of acidity from excessive vomiting, the esophagus and teeth enamel can wear down. As a result, a severe side effect from purging is forming a ruptured esophagus.1 In addition, the constant exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid causes irritation or damage to the digestive tract or mucosal wall lining.

The effects of bulimia can result in many different health risks. Self-induced vomiting may cause the muscles of the lower esophagus not to relax. Inability to swallow oral contents normally or painful swallowing may occur from this effect on the body.

Does Bulimia Cause Weight Loss

Vomiting is not an effective way to remove calories. Even after purging, many calories will remain in the body. Actually, vomiting may strengthen the urge to binge eat more due to an effect on hormones and blood sugar. As the appetite increases, this can evoke another binge. Vomiting also changes the electrolytes and nutrient balance in the body.

Bulimia does not technically cause weight loss but may contribute to weight gain. In addition, of course, due to the duration of the repetitive cycle, organs and the digestive tract are severely harmed, which causes bone structure, internal organs, and other factors to alternate, which may lead to unhealthy weight loss.

Recovery From Bulimia Nervosa

Thankfully, you now understand the dangers of bulimia and why recovery from the disorder is vital to avoid long-term physical effects on the body. Although appearance is not the only factor that matters, the physical effects of bulimia nervosa can be life-threatening and need to be taken seriously.

Our eating disorder treatment in Philadelphia offers various levels of care and substance-specific programs not only for bulimia nervosa but addiction to either illicit or prescription substances. We usually start our patients off with medical detox to safely get them through withdrawal symptoms.


Contact Banyan Philadelphia today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our services.



  1. NCBI - The Medical Complications Associated with Purging


Related Reading:

Eating Disorder Programs

How to Help Someone With Binge Eating Disorder


Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Bulimia Face: The Physical Effects of Bulimia Nervosa
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