Bulimia Nervosa, Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment Facts

Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder which is potentially life-threatening. It is characterized by episodes of binge eating which may be accompanied by behavioral disorders. In this article, learn more about causes, symptoms, and treatment of bulimia nervosa.

Bulimia Nervosa Definition- What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Commonly known as Bulimia, Bulimia nervosa is a disorder characterized by a series of extreme overeating and self-induced vomiting and fasting. People suffering from bulimia are often emotionally conscious of their body weight and image, a factor that compels them to have an obsessive desire to cut weight. Individuals with bulimia (bulimics) suffer other psychiatric illnesses like stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Most bulimics are adolescent girls and women, tallying the number to over a million in the United States of America. Bulimia nervosa causes severe damages to the body and may also lead to death. Bulimia is a combination of two phases; binge eating and compensatory behaviors.

Binge eating involves the consumption of large amounts of food within a short period. Compensatory behaviors are applied as a means of reducing weight after binge eating episodes. The compensatory behaviors may include self-induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, abuse of laxatives or diuretics, and misusing prescription drugs for weight control.

Bulimia Nervosa vs. Anorexia Nervosa

Both bulimia and anorexia involve unorthodox methods of cutting weight and eating disorders. Death cases are more evident in anorexia than in bulimia. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by appetite loss, extreme dieting, and prolonged fasting that leads to abnormal low weight and eventually death if untreated.

Types of Bulimia Nervosa

There are two major types of bulimia; purging and non-purging bulimia nervosa.

Purging Bulimia

This is the most common type of bulimia and involves the bulimics engaging in self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse after binge eating.


In this type of bulimia, the bulimics use extreme exercising, strict dieting, and fasting after binge eating. Non-purging bulimia involves less application of self-induced vomiting or the abuse of laxatives and diuretics.

Causes of Bulimia

Although there are no known causes of bulimia, it is believed that both genetic and environmental factors play huge roles in causing bulimia. Researchers have found that there is a direct link between bulimia and psychiatric issues such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

The environmental factors that are believed to cause bulimia are mainly related to one’s working conditions that require weight loss like dancing, sports or modeling. Pressure from the family may also push an individual to be bulimic. Other believed causes of bulimia include stressful life changes, history of abuse, and low self-esteem.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa- How Bulimia affects your Body

Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa

Physical Signs

As mentioned earlier in the article, bulimia nervosa includes both binge eating and compulsory behavior. These two factors play significant roles it changing the body weight of the bulimics. The frequent changes in weight may be used as an indicator for symptoms of bulimia nervosa.

Over a short period, the body gets damaged due to the self-induced vomiting and poor eating habits. Bulimics are prone to suffering swelling around the mouth and cheeks. They also tend to have damaged teeth and stinking breath from vomiting. Bulimics not only feel blotted but suffer from serious constipation. They also have a low tolerance to food, a factor that worsens their bulimia.

Fainting and dizziness are also symptoms associated with bulimia. The bodies of bulimics become feeble due to lack of adequate food and water. In women, bulimia nervosa may lead to the disturbance of the menstrual periods. People suffering from bulimia suffer from fatigue and have problems sleeping well.

Psychological Signs

There are various psychological signs related to bulimia nervosa, chief among them being sensitivity to comments associated with food or body weight. Bulimic tends to be emotionally unstable when comments are made about their body shape, weight, or eating habits. Bulimia nervosa is usually accompanied by low self-esteem by the people suffering from it, especially after they have eaten. Guilt also burdens the bulimics in both purging and non-purging bulimia nervosa.

The other psychological sign related to bulimia is that the patient gets a distorted image about the body. They tend to think that they are oversized, even if they are in a perfect health and body shape. Bulimics tend to be obsessed with food and always call for the need to control their consumption quantity. Depression and anxiety are major signs of bulimia nervosa, and they are usually followed by extreme body dissatisfaction.

Behavioral Signs

One of the behavioral signs that can be linked to bulimia is binge eating. Bulimics tend to hoard food and are sometimes known to eat in private.

Prolonged bulimia makes its patients anti-social. Bulimics use laxatives and enemas to induce vomiting.

They also use diuretics or drugs that drastically reduce their appetite for food.

The compulsive exercises among bulimics damage their bodies both physically and psychologically.

Bulimics are usually suicidal as a result of the constant stress and depression from which they suffer.

Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa

Here are the different treatment angles from which experts approach bulimia nervosa.

Psychological Treatments for Bulimia

Patients suffering from bulimia nervosa have psychological issues that affect their entire perception of their body weight and shape. Doctors apply cognitive behavior therapy to cure and change the way bulimics think about themselves.

Cognitive behavior treatment helps in reducing the effects of bulimia by allowing the bulimic understand the need to eat at least three meals a day and follow the nutritional counseling.

Interpersonal Therapy for Bulimia

It is applied in curing bulimia as it focuses on the relationship issues that cause depression. It enables the therapist to determine patterns in a bulimic’s relationship that will aid in combining the various methods of coping with grief and maintaining good relationships with the patients and their family or other people.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Bulimia

It helps in healing bulimic nervosa by changing the undesirable behavior portrayed by the bulimics. It also helps in encouraging the patients to accept themselves the way they are, mostly in the form of talking treatment between the bulimics and the therapist.

Stress Management for Bulimic Patients

Helps in curing bulimia by enabling the bulimic patients to make a sound judgment on issues regarding their health. People who apply stress management practices can avoid depression and psychological disorders that lead to bulimia nervosa.

Maudsley Family-based Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

It is an organization comprising of parents whose sole duty is to help other people recover from bulimia and other eating disorders. They offer advice and recovery plans through videos, books, and their website.

Light Therapy for Bulimia Nervosa

Phototherapy and light therapy help in boosting the moods of people suffering from bulimia nervosa. Light makes the brain increase the production of serotonin, a chemical component that controls the level of satiety in an individual. The higher the satiety levels, the lower the chances of binge eating.

Antidepressants for Bulimia

Medicine, such as Prozac is used hand in hand with counseling to reduce stress, depression, anxiety, and binge cycles.

Meditation for Bulimia Nervosa

Consistent meditation helps in the eradication of anger and thoughts associated with binge eating. People who meditate do not see the need to abuse their bodies, and they focus on healing their bodies.

Evidence-based Self-help Programs for Bulimia

These programs provide interventions and plan that bulimic patients must follow to heal their emotional, psychological, and physical issues. These programs incorporate cognitive behavioral therapy. It is known to be effective in reducing depression and eating disorders.

How to Overcome Bulimia without Gaining Weight

Here are common beliefs about bulimia weight loss- where people develop strategies and compensatory behavior to aid in weight loss. Let’s tell out the facts from the fictions.

  • Self-induced vomiting messes up with your sugar levels and encourages even more eating
  • Laxatives only work in the lower part of the digestive system. At this point, most food has been absorbed. You will end up dehydrated with a feeling of temporary loss of weight which will return once the body is rehydrated.
  • Diuretics have no effects on your calorie consumption
  • Going too hard on weight loss pills and teas may or may not have desirable results. Most of these products have little or no effects. DO NOT overuse them based on the promises made by advertisers. Others may result in unhealthy or unsustainable results.


As challenging as it may seem, it is possible to recover from bulimia nervosa. It all needs one to be patient and follow the necessary treatment methods. Families that have people suffering from bulimia must help the bulimics in their journey to recovery.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.