Bulimia Nervosa - Topic Overview
Is this topic for you?
Bulimia is one of the most
common eating disorders. If you want information on other eating disorders, see
Anorexia Nervosa and
Binge Eating Disorder.
What is bulimia nervosa?
"boo-LEE-mee-uh") is a type of
eating disorder. People with bulimia will eat a large
amount of food in a short time (binge). Then they will do something to get rid
of the food (purge). They may vomit, exercise too much, or use medicines like
People who have bulimia may binge because food gives
them a feeling of comfort. But eating too much makes them feel out of control.
After they binge, they feel ashamed, guilty, and afraid of gaining weight. This
causes them to purge.
Without treatment, this "binge and purge"
cycle can lead to serious, long-term health problems. Acid in the mouth from
vomiting can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of
tooth enamel. Any type of purging can lead to bone
thinning (osteoporosis), kidney damage, heart problems, or even
If you or someone you know has bulimia or another eating
disorder, get help. Eating disorders can be dangerous. And willpower alone is
not enough to overcome them. Treatment can help a person who has an eating
disorder feel better and be healthier.
What causes bulimia?
All eating disorders are
complex problems, and experts do not really know what causes them. But they may
be caused by a mix of family history, social factors, and personality traits.
You may be more likely to have bulimia if:
- Other people in your family are obese or have
an eating disorder.
- You have a job or do a sport
that stresses body size, such as ballet, modeling, or gymnastics.
You are the type of person who tries to be perfect all the time, never feels
good enough, or worries a lot.
- You are dealing with stressful
life events, such as divorce, moving to a new town or school, or losing a loved
Bulimia is most common in:
Teens. Like other eating disorders, bulimia
usually starts in the teen years. But it can start even earlier or in
- Women. But boys and men have it too.
While bulimia often starts in the teen years, it usually
lasts into adulthood and is a long-term disorder.
What are the symptoms?
People with bulimia:
- Binge on a regular basis. They eat large amounts of food in a
short period of time, often over a couple of hours or less. During a binge,
they feel out of control and feel unable to stop eating.
- Purge to
get rid of the food and avoid weight gain. They may make themselves vomit,
exercise very hard or for a long time, or misuse laxatives,
enemas, water pills (diuretics), or
- Base how they feel about themselves on how much they weigh and
how they look.