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Bulimia Nervosa Health Center

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Bulimia Nervosa - Topic Overview

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Bulimia is different from anorexia nervosa, another eating disorder. People who have anorexia eat so little that they become extremely thin. People who have bulimia may not be thin. They may be a normal size. They may binge in secret and deny that they are purging. This makes it hard for others to know that a person with bulimia has a serious problem.

If you are concerned about someone, look for the following signs. A person may have bulimia if she:

  • Goes to the bathroom right after meals.
  • Is secretive about eating, hides food, or will not eat around other people.
  • Exercises a lot, even when she does not feel well.
  • Often talks about dieting, weight, and body shape.
  • Uses laxatives or diuretics often.
  • Has teeth marks or calluses on the back of her hands or swollen cheeks or jaws. These are caused by making herself vomit.

Bulimia can be treated with psychological counseling and sometimes medicines, such as antidepressants. The sooner treatment is started, the better. Getting treatment early can make recovery easier and prevent serious health problems.

By working with a counselor, a person with bulimia can learn to feel better about herself. She can learn to eat normally again and stop purging.

Other mental health problems such as depression often happen with bulimia. If a person has another condition along with bulimia, more treatment may be needed, and it may take longer to get better.

Eating disorders can take a long time to overcome. And it is common to fall back into unhealthy ways of eating. If you are having problems, don't try to handle them on your own. Get help.

It can be very scary to realize that someone you care about has an eating disorder. If you think a friend or loved one has bulimia, you can help.

  • Talk to her. Tell her why you are worried.
  • Urge her to talk to someone who can help, like a doctor or counselor. Offer to go with her.
  • Tell someone who can make a difference, like a parent, teacher, counselor, or doctor. The sooner your friend or loved one gets help, the sooner she will be healthy again.

Learning about bulimia:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 25, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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