Bulimia Nervosa – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder which is characterized by binging and purging behaviors. Bulimia nervosa is very serious and has an impact on both physical and mental health. A person with bulimia eats a lot of food in a short amount of time and then tries to prevent weight gain by getting rid of the food, called purging. If you have bulimia nervosa you are likely to be preoccupied with food.

There are two types of bulimia nervosa one is purging type and other is non-purging type. The common behaviors of the purging type include the use of self-induced vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics. Non-purging bulimics use other compensatory behaviors including fasting and excessive exercise to prevent weight gain.

In Western, industrialized countries, about 1 percent to 3 percent of women experience bulimia during their life. The rate of bulimia in men is about one-tenth of that in women.


A binge can be triggered by dieting, stress, or uncomfortable emotions, such as anger or sadness. Purging and other actions to prevent weight gain are ways for people with bulimia to feel more in control of their lives and ease stress and anxiety. Factors in the patient’s social environment are important, including the cultural pressure for women in the Western world to aspire to an unnaturally slim body weight.

Certain personality traits are common in people with eating disorders, which include:

* Low self-esteem, where the person may evaluate their self-worth by their body shape
* A loss of interest in other people
* Mood problems, especially depression
* Mental health problems such as disruptive rituals.


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.
* 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 other medicines.
* Base how they feel about themselves on how much they weigh and how they look.
* Dehydration
* Fatigue
* Dry skin
* Irregular heartbeat
* Sores, scars or calluses on the knuckles or hands
* Bloating or fullness.
* Lack of energy
* Teeth marks on the backs of the hands or calluses on the knuckles from self-induced vomiting.


Some risk factors that may be possible to avoid or address before bulimia is established include social and cultural pressures regarding appearance, bullying, low self-esteem and family dysfunction. In a nutshell, a bulimic needs to learn other, healthier ways to eat and to control their weight. They must learn that good food and a healthy diet will not make them fat. They also need to understand and manage the triggers/ situations that cause them to binge in the first place.

A type of talk therapy called cognitive behavior therapy is most commonly used for bulimia and has shown the most benefit in treating the condition. Therapy can include individual or family therapy.