Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa is often referred to as just bulimia. This article has information on the causes of bulimia nervosa, symptoms of bulimia nervosa, and health problems related to bulimia nervosa. Keep reading for information on getting help for bulimia nervosa, and how bulimia nervosa is treated.


One of the issues that affects many teenage girls (and some teenage boys) is bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is a condition in which the subject eats a large amount of food, in a binge, and then attempts to rid himself or herself of the food through various means. One of the most common means of “rectifying” a binge eating session is through inducing vomiting. However, laxative abuse might be used, as well as excessive exercise. In many cases, a person with bulimia nervosa may also have anorexia nervosa. With anorexia, the affected person perceives himself or herself to be overweight, even if s/he exhibits a normal weight - or even may be underweight. This self-image can lead to bulimia nervosa.

Causes of bulimia nervosa

Like many disorders of this type, the exact cause of bulimia nervosa is unknown. It is believed that there is likely more than one trigger that leads to the condition. It is true, however, that bulimia nervosa is most common in teenage girls. More females than males are prone to bulimia nervosa, and this may be related to the pressure many teen girls feel to conform to a certain type of beauty.

Some of the causes of bulimia nervosa are thought to include psychological, genetic, societal, cultural, filial and traumatic factors. Bulimia nervosa represents a complex mental state, and one that is not easy overcome. Bulimia is characterized by the feelings of guilt, shame and disgust that victims feel whenever they eat, and especially when they binge eat or over eat.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa

There are a number of indications that someone might be suffering from bulimia nervosa. Some of the symptoms associated with bulimia nervosa include the following:

  • Binge eating.
  • Abuse of enemas, laxatives or diuretics.
  • Frequent weighing.
  • Extreme concern about one’s weight.
  • Overachieving behavior.
  • Self-induced vomiting.

One of the things that you can look for include the signs of self-induced vomiting when trying to decide if a loved one is suffering from bulimia nervosa. First of all, someone who is inducing vomiting may have redness around the knuckles of one or two fingers (from sticking them in his or her mouth). Additionally, you might notice deterioration in the teeth, or an appearance of gum infections. There may be a smell of vomit in their living areas. Another clue is frequent trips to the bathroom, especially right after eating a large meal.

It is important to note that many of those with bulimia show undue concern about their weight, even though they may be of a healthy weight - or even underweight. Many of those with bulimia do not seem to be aware that they are at an acceptable weight. They continue to have body image problems that result in behaviors consistent with bulimia.

Health problems related to bulimia nervosa

As you might imagine, this sort of behavior is not particularly good for one’s health. Indeed, there are a number of health problems related to bulimia nervosa. One of the most damaged areas of one’s body, when suffering from bulimia, is often the esophagus. This is due to the amount of stomach acid that passes through this area as vomiting is induced. Some of the other issues that can become a problem for someone with bulimia nervosa include:

  • Dehydration.
  • Cavities in the teeth.
  • Constipation.
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Electrolyte imbalances and abnormalities.
  • Treating bulimia nervosa

It can be difficult to treat bulimia nervosa due to the fact that the disorder is one that is partially psychological in nature. However, there are some treatments that are used in order to help someone overcome bulimic tendencies. These might include a combination of the following:

     Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This focuses on helping those with bulimia nervosa learn to feel better about their bodies, and replace damaging thoughts and behaviors with positive ones. Nutritional therapy is also included in these programs, helping those afflicted by bulimia work on replacing binge eating habits and other problems with behaviors that are more nutritionally sound.

     Support groups: It can be helpful in some cases for those with bulimia nervosa to meet with others who are going through the same problem. For those with mild cases of bulimia nervosa, this can be quite helpful as they learn techniques to overcome the problem, and get help from others who understand what they are going through.

     Drugs: In some cases, it might be necessary to add a pharmacological component to treatment. This usually includes special types of antidepressants to help the bulimic person overcome the impulses and feelings of guilt and disgust that may accompany eating. This component is usually not added unless behavioral therapy and support groups are failing.

It is worth noting that bulimia nervosa is very difficult to overcome, and that relapse - at least once, and probably more than that - is likely. A bulimic person needs a great deal of support and help to overcome the condition.

Related Article: Teen Eating Disorders >>