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10 Little Known Facts About Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa, commonly only known as bulimia, is a severe and potentially life-threatening eating disorder that affects thousands of people all over the world. People who have bulimia may secretly binge eat and then purge in an attempt to get rid of the extra calories they have eaten in an unhealthy manner. This eating disorder is caused by a loss of control over one’s eating habits and a strong desire to stay thin. Many people often associate this condition with vomiting after eating. However, there is a lot more to know and learn about bulimia other than this one symptom of throwing up after eating. Read on to find out some little known facts about bulimia.

10 Little Known Facts About Bulimia

  1. Bulimia is also a Mental Disorder

    Even though bulimia is widely known as an eating disorder, but this condition can also be referred to as a mental disorder. According to the US-based National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders like bulimia are some of the fatal mental conditions in the US. (1, 2, 3, 4) This fact is associated with many long-term health problems, along with suicide.(5, 6) It has often been observed that many patients with bulimia also tend to have depression.(7) This eating disorder usually causes people to feel guilt and shame about their inability to control their compulsive behaviors, which often enhances the feelings of depression.

  2. Bulimia Is Often Rooted In Compulsive Behavior/Habits

    If you have an eating disorder like bulimia, you are likely to be obsessed with your body image. Such people are also prone to taking severe measures to change their weight. For example, while bulimia causes people to binge and then purge, another eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa causes people to restrict their calorie intake drastically.

    Binge eating refers to the consumption of a large amount of food within a short span of time. People with bulimia often tend to binge secretly and then feel immensely guilty about it. The same is also a symptom of binge eating disorder. The difference between the two is that bulimia includes purging after binging, by behaviors like forced vomiting, excessive use of diuretics or laxatives, or fasting. People with bulimia are likely to continue to binge and purge for some time and then undergo periods during which they don’t eat.(8, 9)

    If you have bulimia, you are also likely to exercise compulsively. Of course, regular exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle, but for people with bulimia, this might get taken to the extreme level as they tend to exercise for several hours in a day. This can further cause other health problems, including heatstroke, dehydration, and body injuries. (10, 11)

  3. Bulimia Might Be A Genetic Condition

    Mental disorders such as depression, along with societal pressures, are only two of the possible causes of bulimia. Some experts, however, believe that bulimia might be a genetic condition. You are more prone to develop bulimia if one of your parents has a related eating disorder. Nevertheless, it is still not clear whether this is due to environmental factors at home or a genetic connection.(12, 13)

  4. Societal Pressure As A Cause Of Bulimia

    At present, there is no proven cause of bulimia. However, it is believed that there is a direct correlation between the obsession to remain thin and eating disorders like bulimia. Wanting to adapt and adhere to certain beauty standards is likely to cause people to indulge in unhealthy eating habits.(14,15)

  5. Bulimia Can Affect Men As Well

    While women are more likely to develop eating disorders, especially bulimia, this eating disorder is not specific to any gender. According to data, nearly 15 %of people being treated for bulimia and anorexia are actually male.(16)

    However, men are usually less likely to show any noticeable symptoms or seek the appropriate treatments for such eating disorders. This puts them at a higher risk for developing health problems.

  6. Bulimia Can Cause Serious Health Consequences

    Bulimia can lead to many other health problems other than just unhealthy weight loss. Every system of the body comes under stress in people with bulimia. This is because every bodily system depends on nutrition and healthy eating habits in order to function properly. When you disrupt your natural metabolic process by binging and purging, the body gets seriously affected.

    Due to this, bulimia is also known to cause the following health conditions (17)

  7. It Is Possible To Have Normal Body Weight Even With Bulimia

    It is a common misconception that people with bulimia are thin. Not everyone with bulimia is ultra-thin. For example, people with anorexia have a large calorie deficit, which causes extreme weight loss. However, people with bulimia can also experience episodes of anorexia, but their calorie intake is still more even with all the binging and purging. This is why many people with bulimia still continue to maintain normal body weights. This feature of this eating disorder is usually very receptive to loved ones, and it can even cause a doctor to misdiagnose the condition.(18)

  8. Bulimia Can Cause Reproductive Problems

    Women with bulimia often have irregular periods. This condition can also have long-lasting effects on reproduction even if the menstrual cycle returns back to normal. The danger is especially high for women who become pregnant during periods of active bulimia. Some of the consequences may include:(19)

  9. Antidepressants May Help People With Bulimia

    Antidepressants may help improve some of the symptoms of bulimia, especially in people who also have depression. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, Prozac (fluoxetine) is the only approved medication for bulimia by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).(20) The medication has been found to help prevent the occurrence of binges and purges.

  10. Bulimia Can Last For A Lifetime

    While bulimia is a treatable condition, the symptoms of the disorder often tend to come back without any warning. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), only 1 in 10 people seek treatment for eating disorders.(21) To have the best chance at recovery, it is important to identify the underlying triggers and warning signs. For example, if depression triggers your bulimia, then seek regular mental health treatments. Seeking proper treatment can help prevent the relapse of bulimia.


It is important for people with bulimia to keep in mind that the only real solution for long-term weight management is to follow a balanced diet and have a regular exercise plan. Bulimia causes disruption in your normal weight management, which further sets up the body to face greater health challenges as the eating disorder continues to progress. Working on building a positive body image and lifestyle is important. Consult a doctor at the earliest if you or your loved one needs help in treating bulimia.


  1. 2021. [online] Available at: <http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/> [Accessed 11 December 2021].
  2. Wilfley, D.E., Wilson, G.T. and Agras, W.S., 2003. The clinical significance of binge eating disorder. International journal of eating disorders, 34(S1), pp.S96-S106.
  3. Black, D.W., Goldstein, R.B. and Mason, E.E., 1992. Prevalence of mental disorder in 88 morbidly obese bariatric clinic patients. The American journal of psychiatry.
  4. Giordano, S., 2005. Understanding eating disorders: Conceptual and ethical issues in the treatment of anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Oxford University Press on Demand.
  5. Corcos, M., Taieb, O., Benoit‐Lamy, S., Paterniti, S., Jeammet, P. and Flament, M.F., 2002. Suicide attempts in women with bulimia nervosa: frequency and characteristics. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 106(5), pp.381-386.
  6. Anderson, C.B., Carter, F.A., McIntosh, V.V., Joyce, P.R. and Bulik, C.M., 2002. Self-harm and suicide attempts in individuals with bulimia nervosa. Eating Disorders, 10(3), pp.227-243.
  7. Walsh, B.T., Roose, S.P., Glassman, A.H., Gladis, M. and Sadik, C., 1985. Bulimia and depression. Psychosomatic Medicine.
  8. Castillo, M. and Weiselberg, E., 2017. Bulimia nervosa/purging disorder. Current problems in pediatric and adolescent health care, 47(4), pp.85-94.
  9. Keel, P.K., Haedt, A. and Edler, C., 2005. Purging disorder: An ominous variant of bulimia nervosa?. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 38(3), pp.191-199.
  10. Lichtenstein, M.B., Christiansen, E., Elklit, A., Bilenberg, N. and Støving, R.K., 2014. Exercise addiction: a study of eating disorder symptoms, quality of life, personality traits and attachment styles. Psychiatry research, 215(2), pp.410-416.
  11. Gori, A., Topino, E. and Griffiths, M.D., 2021. Protective and risk factors in exercise addiction: A series of moderated mediation analyses. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(18), p.9706.
  12. Kendler, K.S., MacLean, C., Neale, M., Kessler, R., Heath, A. and Eaves, L., 1991. The genetic epidemiology of bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148(12), pp.1627-1637.
  13. Bulik, C.M. and Tozzi, F., 2004. The genetics of bulimia nervosa. Drugs of Today, 40(9), pp.741-750.
  14. Stice, E., 1994. Review of the evidence for a sociocultural model of bulimia nervosa and an exploration of the mechanisms of action. Clinical psychology review, 14(7), pp.633-661.
  15. Cashel, M.L., Cunningham, D., Landeros, C., Cokley, K.O. and Muhammad, G., 2003. Sociocultural attitudes and symptoms of bulimia: Evaluating the SATAQ with diverse college groups. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50(3), p.287.
  16. Linardon, D., 2021. Bulimia Nervosa in Men & Males: Signs, Statistics & Treatment. [online] Break Binge Eating. Available at: <https://breakbingeeating.com/male-bulimia/> [Accessed 13 December 2021].
  17. Johnson, J.G., Spitzer, R.L. and Williams, J.B.W., 2001. Health problems, impairment and illnesses associated with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder among primary care and obstetric gynaecology patients. Psychological medicine, 31(8), pp.1455-1466.
  18. Shisslak, C.M., Pazda, S.L. and Crago, M., 1990. Body weight and bulimia as discriminators of psychological characteristics among anorexic, bulimic, and obese women. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99(4), p.380.
  19. Morgan, J.F., Lacey, J.H. and Sedgwick, P.M., 1999. Impact of pregnancy on bulimia nervosa. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 174(2), pp.135-140.
  20. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bulimia-nervosa.html> [Accessed 13 December 2021].
  21. Team, S., 2021. Eating disorder statistics in the U.S. in 2020. [online] The Checkup. Available at: <https://www.singlecare.com/blog/news/eating-disorder-statistics/> [Accessed 13 December 2021].

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 15, 2021

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