Bulimia and Alcoholism: A Deadly Pair


The over consumption of alcohol takes a toll on your body, as well as your physical state. Bulimia is equally harmful producing largely negative effects, both physically and emotionally. Combining the two makes for a deadly cocktail of addiction.

Signs and Symptoms

Individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol may experience life threatening symptoms, some of which include, but are not limited to:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Shakiness

Continued excessive use of alcohol over a period of time can have effects on your physical appearance as well. These effects can include dull and discolored skin, discolored/rotting teeth, and even hair loss.

Equally frightening are symptoms of bulimia such as:

  • Dental cavities
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn

Combining alcohol and bulimia creates a potentially deadly outcome for most individuals.

Dual Diagnosis Statistics

While you may not believe that you personally know an individual suffering from alcoholism and bulimia, it’s estimated that 30-35% of women seeking treatment for bulimia have an alcohol disorder. Additionally, studies show that 20-25% of women who are not currently seeking treatment have a co-occurring disorder of bulimia and alcoholism.

Having both addictions increases your chances in developing more severe symptoms, some of which include a higher level of anxiety and depression, higher likelihood of hospitalization for psychiatric problems, and a higher likelihood of exhibiting suicidal behavior. Each addiction has its own severe list of symptoms, and combined, these lists are life threatening.

Identifying Signs

As with most addictions, those who are suffering rarely step forward with their struggles, or ask for help. Noticing a severe change in weight can be a major indicator that something is wrong. However, losing a noticeable amount of weight means the disorder has been going on for a while. Muscle in the body provides a higher amount of nutrients than fat. Starving your body will cause it to live off the muscle first, then transition to surviving off stored fat.

Another sign is noticing the individual avoiding food all day, but engaging in heavy drinking in the evening. They think that drinking heavily in the evening will provide the calories their body is looking for after “saving calories” by not eating during the day. This can ultimately lead to heavy intoxication since there is nothing in their system to absorb the alcohol. With heavy intoxication comes purging. Your body is trying to get rid of the harmful liquid consumed, and this is the fastest way it knows how.

While drinking to the point of purging is dangerous for anyone, it’s extremely dangerous for someone who has an eating disorder. Purging after not consuming anything can lead to dangerous dehydration, and other internal deficits. Alternatively, eating during the day and then drinking to the point of purging so as not to consume any calories leads to dangerous side effects since the body isn’t able to absorb key nutrients.

Co-occurring disorders are complex and require help from a medical professional. If you or someone you know are currently living with an eating disorder and alcoholism please know you are not alone. It is never too late for help, or to start your path to recovery.