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Effects of Bulimia on the Entire Family

Bulimia is not just a disease that affects the victim.  It is a disease that widely affects the entire family and leaves victims across it’s entire reach. 

Bulimia is an eating disorder that is on the rise, although little is still known about its causation.  What is known is that problems arise when the sufferers of the disease begin using food to control their feelings.   Depression, low self-esteem, sexual abuse, death loneliness and other emotional distresses can all contribute to bulimia.

This eating disorder is characterized by binge eating, often as much as 3-4 times the normal amount, followed by making oneself vomit or by taking laxatives and purgatives to try and avoid putting on weight.

Research has shown that there is some genetic link as well as family attitude toward food that can make one more likely to suffer from bulimia.  This disease is most often found in women between the ages of 15-25.

At first, the myriad signs of Bulimia don’t show.  After a while, the terrible physical problems that almost all Bulimics face start to show:

Other common medical complications and adverse effects of bulimia include:

  • Weight gain
  • Abdominal pain, bloating
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Chronic sore throat, hoarseness
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Swollen cheeks and salivary glands
  • Weakness and dizziness
  • Tooth decay and mouth sores
  • Acid reflux or ulcers
  • Ruptured stomach or esophagus
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Chronic constipation from laxative abuse

Once the family and other loved ones realize that the Bulimic in the Family or their Friend is in trouble, they usually don’t understand what is happening.  They interpret the disease as a disease of food, that the Bulimic just doesn’t like food, or has aspersions to food, hang-ups about food, is afraid of getting fat and so-on and so-forth.  This is certainly not the case.  This is an eating disorder, not just a little problem.  And, this eating disorder is actually about feelings and coping, not about food.  Food just happens to be the vehicle.  With this misunderstanding, arguments with the Family erupt and erupt constantly, making for more feelings of a lack of self-worth, not being understood or loved, and the Bulimic goes more into their shell and continues their behavior. 

The family may continue to reach out, but until they get some help in understanding what is happening, they will be of little use to healing the family unit, and of no use whatsoever to the Bulimic in helping her/him to resolve some of their problems so that they can move on with their lives in a more healthy fashion.

Bulimia in a person can also "affect" all of the people around who care or have concerns about the health of a sufferer as any serious disease would naturally put stress on the whole family.   Interestingly enough, this stress on the Family can backfire on the sufferer as the stress to the family & close friends can affect the sufferer even more with symptoms of guilt for the empathy being shown.  In some cases, families cannot cope and can be close to disowning the sufferer of Bulimia.  When a Person becomes ill and cannot be cured by regular means, i.e.; medicine, it changes the entire Family Dynamic. Some family situations cannot adapt to changes such as this.  When this happens, the effect on the family is huge and quite sad.  Luckily, most effects on the family are not so enormous, and most families seek help for themselves and for the Bulimic which help is usually beneficial.

Rika B.


NOTE/Disclaimer: Inclusion in our list of organizations, books, counselors, and other links and resources does not necessarily indicate a recommendation or endorsement. What is helpful for another survivor may not be right for you. As always, use your own judgment when contacting any of these organizations. Advice given at this website, or in conjunction with Joshua Childrens Foundation activities is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship but only as suggestion based on the founders personal experience as a sex abuse victim resulting in bulimia eating disorder and the healing journey from that. Articles, links, or content contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should it be inferred as such. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a specific condition. Joshua Childrens Foundation does not take any responsibility and is held harmless from any actions by anyone associated with the websites we link to.