Bulimia: Symptoms, Treatments, and PreventionMedically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum on October 19, 2021
Articles On Bulimia Nervosa
What Is Bulimia?
Bulimia is a psychological eating disorder in which you have episodes of binge eating (consuming a large quantity of food in one sitting). During these binges, you have no sense of control over your eating. Afterward, you try inappropriate ways to lose weight such as:
Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, tends to start in late childhood or early adulthood. You usually binge and purge in secret. You feel disgusted and ashamed when you binge, and relieved once you purge.
People with bulimia usually weigh within the normal range for their age and height. But they may fear gaining weight, want to lose weight, and feel very dissatisfied with their bodies.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors for Bulimia?
We don't know the exact cause of bulimia. But research suggests that a mixture of certain personality traits, emotions, and thinking patterns, as well as biological and environmental factors, might be responsible.
Researchers believe this eating disorder may begin with dissatisfaction with your body and extreme concern with your size and shape. Usually, you have low self-esteem and fear becoming overweight. The fact that bulimia tends to run in families also suggests that you might inherit a risk for the disorder.
Other risk factors include:
What Are Symptoms of Bulimia?
Different people may have different symptoms of bulimia. You may notice changes in both your body and your behavior. Unlike the eating disorder anorexia, someone with bulimia may not lose a lot of weight, so it can be harder to tell whats going on.
Physical symptoms of bulimia can include:
Behavioral symptoms of bulimia may include:
If you or any member of your family has an unhealthy focus on weight and size and/or appears overly interested in food, call a doctor. The sooner you're treated, the better your chances for a successful outcome.
Does Bulimia Have Complications?
Another reason to get prompt treatment is to avoid the serious problems bulimia can cause. They include:
How is Bulimia Diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks you might have bulimia, they'll probably ask you about your eating habits, if you've lost or gained weight, and whether you have any physical symptoms. They may also:
You may also have other tests to rule out medical causes for weight loss or gain.
What Are Bulimia Treatments and Home Remedies?
To treat bulimia, your doctor will consider your physical and psychological needs. Your treatment may include counseling and medications. Often, it involves a team of medical, nutritional, and mental health professionals. They'll try to help you restore your health and healthy eating patterns.
The goal is to teach you good eating habits. You work with a dietitian to learn to recognize your body's signals of hunger and fullness. They help you stabilize your weight and gain a healthier attitude toward food.
Self-care for bulimia
Along with following your treatment and therapy plan, you can take steps to care for yourself:
Whats the Outlook for People With Bulimia?
Bulimia is difficult to cure. Many people improve, but some may relapse from time to time. In addition, some people who are considered "cured" continue with less-than-normal eating patterns throughout their lives.
But in general, the outlook for people with bulimia is more positive than the outlook for people with anorexia, another eating disorder.
Can Bulimia Be Prevented?
Because we don't know exactly why people get bulimia, it's hard to know how to prevent it. But there are ways to teach children and teens healthy attitudes and behaviors about food and body image. They include:
Once bulimia has developed, prevention mostly focuses on trying to keep it from getting worse and harming a person's body and sense of self. This can be difficult, since eating disorders can go on secretly for a long time before others suspect what is happening and intervene.
The same is true for relapses during recovery. You might need to go back to the doctor if bulimia symptoms come back.
Call your doctor if:
When to Call 911
Sometimes, people with bulimia have depression as well as their eating disorder. Call 911 if you or someone who has this condition are thinking about committing suicide.
You can also call the national suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255.
WebMD Medical Reference
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National Institute of Mental Health: "Eating Disorders," Eating Disorders: About More than Food.
womenshealth.gov: "Bulimia nervosa fact sheet."
National Eating Disorders Association: "Bulimia Nervosa," "Introduction to Nutrition Therapy," "Contact the Helpline."
Mayo Clinic: "Bulimia nervosa."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Disorders."
National Association of Anorexia and Related Disorders: "Online Support Groups."
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