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When should I call my doctor if I have bulimia nervosa?

People who have bulimia nervosa often don't realize that they have a problem, or they deny that they do. Self-awareness that you may have a problem can be important to getting the help you need to overcome your illness.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder which causes people to binge on large amounts of food, usually in a short period of time, and then purge to rid themselves of the excess calories by abusing laxatives and/or diuretics, vomiting, excessive exercise or a combination of these behaviors. Bulimia can cause both emotional and physical symptoms.

Emotional symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
  • You feel out of control when you are bingeing.
  • After you binge, you feel a sense of shame, disgust and/or guilt.
  • You withdraw socially, often because of feelings of low self-esteem or shame.
  • You fear gaining weight and want desperately to lose weight.
  • You are intensely unhappy with your body shape or weight.
  • You binge-eat and then purge anywhere from several times a week to several times a day.
Physical symptoms of bulimia nervosa, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, include:
  • a chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • swollen salivary glands in your neck and jaw area
  • worn tooth enamel and/or increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth from exposure to stomach acid due to vomiting
  • frequent gastrointestinal problems, including acid reflux disorder
  • intestinal irritation and distress from abusing laxatives
  • severe dehydration
  • electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to heart attack
Any of these symptoms are a good reason to call your doctor. Bulimia nervosa is treatable with cognitive behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, prescription medications or a combination of these approaches. The sooner you seek help, the more likely that your treatment will be successful.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.