Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia is an Eating Disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and self-induced vomiting designated to compensate for the effects of bingeing.


Eating a large amount of food in a specific period of time, having a lack of sense of control when it comes to the amount of food consumed, and what one is eating. Recurrent inappropriate behavior to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, fasting/dieting, and excessive exercise

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Emotional & Behavioral Signs

· Attitudes indicating weight loss, dieting, and control of food that are becoming primary concerns

· Evidence of binge eating, disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time

· Evidence of purging behaviors such as frequent trips to the bathroom especially after meals

· Development of food rituals (eats only particular food/food group, excessive chewing, does not allow foods to touch)

· Appears uncomfortable eating in front of others / fear of eating in public

· Excessive amounts of mouthwash, mints, and gum

· Extreme mood swings

Physical Signs

· Noticeable fluctuations in weight both up and down

· Body weight is typically within the normal weight range, may be overweight

· Gastrointestinal complaints (constipation, acid reflux, etc.)

·  Cuts and calluses across top of finger joints (as a result of vomiting)

· Dental problems (enamel erosion, cavities, tooth sensitivity, discoloration of teeth from vomiting)

Co-Occurring Conditions:

· Self- Injury (Cutting and other forms of self-harm without suicidal intention)

· Substance Abuse

·  Impulsivity (Risky Behaviors, shoplifting, etc.)

· Diabulimia (intentional misuse of insulin for Type 1 Diabetes)

Health Consequences

The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions. Electrolyte imbalance can kill without warning, so can cardiac arrest.

How to Help A Loved One

If you are concerned about the eating habits, weight, or body image of someone you care for, we understand that this may be a very difficult time for you and your loved one. Many individuals in recovery from an eating disorder heavily rely on the help and support from friends and family.

How to talk to a loved one about eating concerns

Even if you don’t feel the discussion was well-received, don’t despair. You shared your concern and let them know that you care and are there for them. You may have helped plant a seed that they should seek help which can help them move toward recovery.

Tips for encouraging a loved one to seek professional help

Recovery from an eating disorder requires professional help, and chances are improved the sooner a person begins treatment. Here are some tips to encouraging loved ones to seek help:

What to Expect From Treatment

Getting a diagnosis is the first step in treating an eating disorder. Treatment of an eating disorder usually involves a combination of counseling as well as medical monitoring. Treatment must address the eating disorder symptoms. Many individuals utilize a treatment team to treat their eating disorders. Some common treatment teams include:

Most Physicians will be able to refer you to a local therapist and dietitians/nutritionists who have experience in treating eating disorders. The first step will be to restore normal eating patterns and having the client return to a healthy body weight. Eating Disorder Treatment generally addresses the following factors:

Additional Resources

Video – Inside the Eating Disordered Mind

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