Bulimia Nervosa (cont.)

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What are complications of bulimia?

The potential dangers of bulimia can be severe and affect virtually every organ system. The malnutrition that can result from inducing vomiting and abusing laxatives, diet pills, and/or diuretics (medications that cause increased urinating) can result in low blood pressure to the point of fainting, cold hands and feet, abnormalities in body chemistry (abnormal electrolyte levels), as well as abnormal hormone levels, failure to ovulate, and delayed puberty. Permanent complications can include stunted growth, decreased bone density, and changes in the person's brain structure. Severe complications can include irregular heartbeat and rectal prolapse. People with bulimia tend to have twice the mortality rates as individuals with no eating disorder. Suicide is a significant component of the higher mortality rate.

What is the prognosis for bulimia?

In contrast to illnesses like depression, that can have as much as a 75% recovery rate, only about 45% of people with bulimia fully recover. Most full recovery takes place between four and nine years later. About 27% of bulimia sufferers significantly improve without full recovery, and more than 20% continue to have chronic symptoms or switch to having another eating disorder.

The mortality rate of bulimia, at 0.3%, is many times less than that of anorexia, which is about 5%. Both of these eating disorders often co-occur with depressive, anxiety, and other mood disorders, as well as with personality disorders like borderline personality disorder.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/8/2014

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