1. Parenting
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia in Teens

Understanding Bulimia in Troubled Teens


Purging behaviors are common in teens with bulimia.

Know the signs of bulimia in troubled teens.

Dimitri Vervitsiotis/Getty Images

Quick Links: Quiz: Does Your Teen Have Bulimia Nervosa? | All Bulimia in Teens Resources

Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by behavior to compensate for the excessive amount of food consumed. This can include purging, fasting, over-exercising or the abuse of laxatives and diuretics to prevent gaining weight. The cycle of overeating and then purging can become compulsive, in some ways similar to an addiction to drugs.

The Warning Signs of Bulimia in Teens Include:

  • Eating a significantly larger amount of food in a limited period of time than most people would typically eat, known as binging.
  • Feeling unable to control or stop eating once a binge starts.
  • Continuing to eat even if feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Expressing frequent concerns about body weight or shape.
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety after eating.
  • Purging food from the body after overeating to avoid gaining weight and as an attempt to regain a sense of control.
  • Skipping meals or going on extreme diets to 'make up' for binging behaviors.
  • Very fearful of gaining weight.
  • Using breath mints to cover up after vomiting.
  • Unhappy with body size or shape.
  • Using diet pills or diuretics for weight control.
  • Spending lots of time in the bathroom, usually throwing up.
  • Excessive exercise, at inappropriate times or settings, or even when sick or injured.

The Impact of Bulimia on Troubled Teens

  • Mineral or electrolyte imbalances
  • Abnormal bowel function
  • Destruction of tooth enamel
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Anemia
  • Becoming moody or depressed
  • Substance abuse
  • Hormone problems
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Rupturing in the esophageal wall due to vomiting
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Death

Most bulimics are female. But this is an eating disorder that males tend to have as they use the excessive exercise to lose weight and build muscle. This eating disorder can be triggered by stress, ineffective dieting, or as an attempt to deal with painful emotions or impaired body image. Purging behaviors make bulimia very harmful to the body. If you have any concerns your teen may be suffering from bulimia seek a professional evaluation from a physician or mental health professional. Early intervention improves the chances for a teens' successful recovery from an eating disorder.

Quick Links: Quiz: Does Your Teen Have Bulimia Nervosa? | All Bulimia in Teens Resources

About.com Parenting Troubled Teens content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.