What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is destructive both physically and mentally. The repetitive vomiting that is sometimes a part of bulimia can cause dental discoloration and swollen cheeks. Those who suffer from bulimia generally also suffer from low self-esteem. Verbal, physical, or sexual abuse are all risk factors for developing bulimia.

People who suffer from bulimia are more likely than others to have parents with substance abuse or mental health struggles. Participation in activities that generally require slenderness can also contribute to the development of bulimia.


Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by alternating periods of out of control eating and attempts to compensate through excessive exercise, caloric restriction, and/or purging. There are two types of bulimia nervosa: Those who suffer from the purging type regularly induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. People who suffer from the non-purging type may fast or exercise excessively to compensate for binge eating, but they do not regularly induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, diuretics, or enemas. Bulimia nervosa cannot be diagnosed if one can currently be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.


  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating, defined as ingesting an amount of food larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time in a similar circumstance and feeling out of control of one’s eating, at least twice per week for three months.
  • Recurrent episodes of purging (vomiting, misuse of laxative, diuretics, enemas, etc.), fasting, or excessive exercise, to prevent weight gain as a result of binge eating, at least twice per week for three months.
  • Body weight or shape have a distorted influence on self-evaluation.


Treatment should include a multi-disciplinary team of professionals with at least one mental health professional, one medical health professional, and a registered dietitian or nutritionist. Family therapy may also be included to teach loved ones how to support the person suffering from an eating disorder; this is especially important for children and teens. Due to the complexity of eating disorders, it is strongly recommended that you find professionals that specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. Anti-depressant medications may have a small role in treatment. Initial success can be achieved in 50-70 percent of patients; however 30-50 percent relapse in six months.


There is no known prevention for bulimia nervosa. Primary care physicians can monitor early warning signs and ask diagnostic questions to determine the need for early intervention. Programs focusing on media literacy and interactive discussion have been successful in reducing eating disorder risk factors.

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