Bulimia Nervosa


What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa, also known simply as bulimia, is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by extreme efforts to avoid gaining weight, such as purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. While people with bulimia may take steps to lose weight or control their body shape by limiting their food intake or by purging, this behavior does not lead to sustainable and healthy changes.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Common signs and symptoms of bulimia may include (but are not limited to):

  • Binge eating episodes, during which the individual eats an unusually large amount of food in a short amount of time
  • Fear of not being able to stop eating voluntarily
  • Eating until the point of discomfort or pain
  • Purging behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
  • Fasting or excessive exercise
  • Use of diet pills or appetite suppressants
  • Body dysmorphic disorder, which involves an unhealthy preoccupation with one’s appearance
  • Depression or low self-esteem
  • Social isolation

Risk Factors for Bulimia Nervosa

There are a number of potential risk factors for bulimia nervosa. These include:

  • Family history of eating disorders
  • Having a first-degree relative with an anxiety disorder, depression, or substance use disorder
  • A history of childhood trauma, such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Having a perfectionist personality or placing a high value on having a perfect body shape
  • Involvement in certain sports, such as gymnastics, diving, and dance, or in other activities that emphasize appearance, such as modeling
  • History of dieting or other methods of weight control

Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa

Treatment for bulimia may involve a combination of psychological interventions, nutritional counseling, and possibly medication. Common approaches to treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and family therapy. Treatment may also involve developing healthy coping mechanisms to deal with emotions, such as stress or anxiety.