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Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia

What Is Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia?

Commonly known as Bulimia, Bulimia Nervosa is a serious eating disorder. It can be potentially life threatening and often compels people to binge on their favorite food. This works in a constant cycle- people tend to eat a lot and try to purge those extra calories which were consumed, in an unhealthy way.

Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia

Types Of Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia

Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia Can Be Classified In Two Major Ways:

  • Bulimia with Purging: After binging, a patient tries to vomit the food out forcefully or use any laxative means for doing the same.
  • Non-Purging or Restricting Bulimia: Patients tend to follow a strict diet or use other means like over exercising to get rid of the calories that they have consumed while bingeing.

The above-mentioned behaviors often have common characteristics and whatever might be the ways through which you get rid of the calories, it is termed as purging.

If you are suffering from Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia, you are heavy on the weight aspects or are insecure about your own shape of the body. This leads you in treating your body harshly which can be difficult to overcome at times. With exposure to effective treatments, this disorder can be overcome and you will be able to adopt healthy eating habits.

The Repetitive Binging And Purging Cycle In Bulimia Nervosa Or Bulimia:

The destructive cycle of binging and purging can be triggered with Dieting. The irony is that with every strict diet regulation, your obsession towards food often grows beyond the limits. When you tend to starve your body, it responds with more powerful feelings which are often termed as craving for nutrition.

As the feeling of dispossession and tension along with hunger starts to build, you try to become extremely compulsive towards food. With a rigid mindset, you start feeling that any change in diet plans will end up being a total failure.

Regrettably, bingeing only brings in a short time relied and will often give rise to guiltiness and self loathing behavior. This will continue with purging, which is done to get rid of the calories and gain control over the diet.

Causes Of Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia

Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia is not caused by a single method or a single change of course. It is often complimented with self-consciousness and lower self-esteem. This disorder often relates to complex emotional behaviors. The major causes of Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia may however include the following:

  • Poor Self Image as a Cause for Bulimia Nervosa: Recent cultures emphasize on having a lean body structure and young women are often subjected to having a physical ideal just like the actors in the media.
  • Self-Esteem Issues Leading To Bulimia Nervosa: People who often think of themselves as an unattractive persona, often have the liability of developing bulimia nervosa. The factors that contribute to this situation involve childhood abuse, depression and perfectionism along with living in critical domestic surroundings.
  • Trauma or Abuse History: Women who develop the signs of bulimia nervosa often have a history of sexual abuse. The occurrence of this disorder is higher in those people whose parents have dealt with a substance abuse.
  • Display-Oriented Professions or Activities: Personalities like models, actors, wrestlers, ballet dancers have a higher risk of developing Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia. This is because they are constantly exposed to an image pressure.
  • Big Life Changes: Various stressful events or transitions are the leading cause of bulimia nervosa, which include certain physical and behavioral changes after puberty or break up of a relationship. At such times, binging and purging may bring some negative impact on the person who is suffering from a stressful situation.

Risk Factors For Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia

  • The occurrence of Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia is seen more in females as compared to males.
  • Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia often commences in the teenage or during early adulthood.
  • People, who have a family history of Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia, have a tendency of developing it in the early ages, which is due to the genetic inheritance. Serotonin- a brain chemical also plays a role in triggering the symptoms.
  • Parents and coaches of all the sports persons often encourage them to lose weight and restrict consuming an unhealthy diet. This might create a sense of consciousness amongst them, which gives rise to bulimia nervosa.
  • The ones who are struck with an eating disorder often develop various emotional or psychological issues that give rise to the disorder. Apart from depression and stress, various traumatic events may also play a significant role.
  • Pressure of media and peers often fuels a person to have an ideal figure or a physical appeal.

Signs And Symptoms Of Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia

Signs And Symptoms Of Binge Eating Episodes:

  • Eating cannot be stopped consciously. The patient tends to eat until the body experiences any kind of pain or discomfort.
  • Eating when no one is around and sneaking out to the kitchen for munching on the leftover food.
  • Consuming large amounts of food without any change in body weight.
  • Being triggered by seeing empty wrappers, hidden stashes of junk food and food containers in the trash.
  • Indulging in a constant cycle of binging and purging.

Signs And Symptoms Of Purging Episodes:

  • Visiting the bathroom for expelling the food out of the system. May try hiding the sound of vomiting by the sound of running water.
  • Making use of enemas, laxatives or diuretic after eating food. May also consume diet pills or use sauna to get rid of the calories.
  • The sufferer may smell like vomit and may try to cover the smell by using perfume, mouthwash or mint.
  • After every meal, the person will work strenuously. This usually includes performing high intensity workouts.

Physical Signs Of Bulimia Nervosa Or Bulimia:

  • Scars or calluses on the hands while pushing the finger in the throat for vomiting.
  • Bulbous cheeks which is a result of continuous vomiting.
  • Teeth may look discolored due to the acids that are a part of the vomit.
  • People who are suffering from bulimia nervosa are not underweight, but are healthy or slightly overweight.
  • With liability to a continuous cycle of bingeing and purging, a person’s weight may fluctuate by 10 pounds or so.

Diagnostic Criteria For Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia

As per the publications of the American Psychiatric Association, a person to be diagnosed with bulimia must meet the criteria that relate to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM):

  • Patient keeps on eating repeatedly and looks for ways to consume food over again.
  • To get off the extra calories, patient will tend to use laxatives or vomit after eating a meal.
  • Patient will binge and purge for a period of three months and the cycle is repeated twice a week.
  • Patient is highly self conscious about your body weight and looks.
  • Patient does not have anorexia, which is often associated with restrictive eating disorder.

Even if you do not observe some of these symptoms, you might still have an eating disorder. Rather than trying to diagnose all by yourself, rely on a psychotherapist.

Treatment For Bulimia Nervosa (BN) Or Bulimia

Psychotherapy For Treating Bulimia Nervosa Or Bulimia:

Psychotherapy involves speaking about your issues with the doctor or a mental health counselor. This therapy is also called as talk therapy, psychosocial therapy or counseling. The following therapies will help in bringing down the symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia:

  • CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy): For Bulimia Nervosa will help in identifying the negative and unhealthy beliefs as well as replaces them with the positive ones.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy: For Bulimia Nervosa helps in improving the social and interpersonal relationships through effective communication.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Often involves various skills that are related to behavior, which will help in tolerating the stress and regulating them. This in turn contributes in reducing the symptoms of bulimia in a person.
  • Family-based Therapy may also help the parents understand the disorder that is seen in their children. This will help in developing a good relationship between parents and their children as well.

Medications For Bulimia Nervosa Or Bulimia:

Use of antidepressants may help in combating bulimia when it is complemented with psychotherapy. Fluoxetine (Prozac) is considered as an effective medication when it comes to treating Bulimia Nervosa or Bulimia.

Nutrition Education For Bulimia Nervosa:

Bringing you back to the normal weight might be the primary concern when you are suffering from underweight. Healthcare providers and dietitians often design a health plan that will help you in gaining weight as well. The practitioner may also suggest healthy weight-loss programs as well.


  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Eating Disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
  2. Mayo Clinic. Bulimia Nervosa. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353615
  3. National Eating Disorders Association. Get the Facts on Eating Disorders. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
  4. American Psychiatric Association. What Are Eating Disorders? https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders
  5. HelpGuide. Bulimia Nervosa: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, and Help. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa.htm

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 20, 2023

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