Overview Of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa Definition

Bulimia nervosa is a mental health disorder in which a person engages in dangerous dietary behavior to prevent weight gain.

People who suffer from bulimia also have self-image, confidence, and emotional issues that they struggle to cope with. This causes the need to be hyper-vigilant about weight management.

Bulimia nervosa is not the same as anorexia nervosa or binge eating disorder.

In the United States, millions of men and women suffer from Bulimia Nervosa, an eating disorder in which a person has a fear of gaining weight. It is a mental health disorder in which a person goes through periods of excessive dieting and binging and purging. Binge eating is the act of eating copious amounts of food until uncomfortably full. Binges are followed by compensatory behaviors, like purging. Purging is the act of forcing your body to expel any food you have eaten in a given day. Such methods of purging include:

  • Inducing vomiting
  • Misuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Misuse of diet pills

Purging is a maladaptive coping strategy. People who suffer from bulimia nervosa will purge to:

  • Relieve stress or anxiety
  • Cope with emotional issues
  • Relieve negative feelings reflecting low self-esteem
  • Prevent weight gain

Bulimia nervosa manifests as a result of other mental health and emotional issues. Such emotional issues include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low self-worth
  • Body dsymorphia (Seeing body as flawed or malformed)
  • Poor stress management skills

What Triggers Bulimia Nervosa?

There are many lifestyle factors that can contribute to the onset of bulimia nervosa.

People with bulimia have a poor body image and poor self-esteem.

People with bulimia have a hard time handling stress and other emotional issues.

Bulimia nervosa is caused by a poor self-image and low self-esteem. Patients with bulimia nervosa will struggle with emotional issues reflecting their self-worth. Their internal or emotional issues manifest in a poor self-image. This poor self-image results in impulsive and destructive behavior, along with a poor body image that causes the urge to engage in binge-and-purge behavior.

Bulimia nervosa is often co-occurring with other mental health disorders. Bulimia nervosa is triggered by emotional disturbance and a warped self-image. It is not uncommon for a person with bulimia nervosa to also be diagnosed with anxiety and mood disorders, like depression, bipolar disorder, and anger management issues. These two disorders are often closely related.

People with bulimia often have family members who also suffer from bulimia or other eating disorders. It is easy to learn poor habits that relate to bulimic behavior when there is someone to model that behavior. Considering this, it is not surprising to hear that eating disorders run in families

Health Risks Of Bulimia Nervosa

There are several ways bulimia nervosa affects the body and mind.

If you feel you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia nervosa it is important to seek medical and mental health attention.

Bulimia Nervosa is a serious disorder that comes with habits and behaviors that have devastating effects on the mind and body. These effects come primarily from the binge-and-purge and dietary restrictive behaviors. These two behaviors deprive the body of the nutrients needed to properly function. This will result in consequences to the body and mind. Consequences of bulimia include:

  • Tooth decay
  • Mood swings
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Infertility
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of menstrual cycle

Symptoms And Warning Signs Of Bulimia Nervosa

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People with bulimia do things like extreme dieting, excessive exercising, and “binge-and-purging” to make sure they do not gain weight.

Binge-and-purge refers to eating a lot of food in a short amount of time and immediately vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain.

In today’s society, the prevalence of eating disorders like bulimia nervosa is growing at an alarming rate. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify signs of bulimia because bulimics maintain an average body weight. However, there are other warning signs that can indicate bulimia, including:

  • Having a family member who suffers from an eating disorder or emotional disturbance
  • Binging (Eating an excessive amount of food in a short amount of time) and purging (Inducing vomiting)
  • Misuse of diuretics or laxatives
  • Bad breath or tooth decay
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Excessive exercise
  • Shame about body
  • Irritability, especially when confronted with concerns or comments about eating habits or weight
  • Suffering from depression

People with bulimia struggle with concerns with body image, self-esteem, and their weight or appearance, but there are often deeper-rooted emotional and mental health issues at play. It is vital for recovery that these emotional issues are addressed.

Bulimia is an eating disorder to be taken seriously because it has the potential to develop into anorexia, which causes a person to lose weight at a rapid pace and has the potential to be fatal. If you have concerns about yourself or a loved one it is important to consult your doctor, who will be able to help you develop a plan for recovery.

How Is A Patient Diagnosed With Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia is diagnosed as a mental health disorder.

Untreated bulimia nervosa can progress into anorexia nervosa.

There is a strict set of diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa.

Body Image

There are strict guidelines to identifying symptoms of bulimia nervosa. Since bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia nervosa, there are key qualifiers that differentiate the two diagnoses.

A person with bulimia nervosa will engage in binge eating. He or she will eat a large quantity amount of food within an approximate two-hour period. During this binging episode the patient will not be able to control his or her eating. Following the binge, the patient will engage in compensatory behavior in effort to prevent weight gain. This cycle of impulsive and indulgent behavior will happen at least 1-2 times per week for at least three consecutive months.

A person with bulimia nervosa will have low self-esteem. His or her self-image will weigh heavily on body weight. The patient will see himself or herself as unattractive, which causes a negative self-image.

How Bulimia Nervosa Affects Your Life

Bulimia has a major impact on several aspects of a patient’s life.

If not properly treated, a person who suffers from bulimia can suffer from major mental health and medical consequences.

Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that has major consequences on a person\’s life. Bulimia nervosa is a condition in which a patient struggles with body image. In effort to cope with the poor body image the patient will engage in compensatory behaviors. Such compensatory behaviors include restricting diet, excessive exercise, and binging and purging.

Bulimia nervosa has serious consequences on many aspects of a patient\’s life. A person with bulimia nervosa will face challenges and consequences regarding a person’s mental health, physical health and relationships.

Mental Health

Bulimia nervosa is closely connected with a person\’s overall mental health. A patient who develops bulimia has a low self-esteem. The patient has a poor body image and believes he or she is not valued or valuable. Feelings of inadequacy or discontent with how he or she looks will cause a person to develop bulimia nervosa. A person with bulimia nervosa will engage in symptomatic behaviors as a way to cope with the emotional distress.

Bulimia Nervosa will cause a patient\’s mental health issues to worsen. As the patient falls deeper into the symptomatic behavior he or she will internalize the actions. He or she will use binge-and-purge and extreme dieting behaviors in effort to relieve the pain and stress brought about by the emotional issues. This quickly becomes a maladaptive cycle as the patient begins to binge and purge and engage in other bulimic behaviors as a way to cope with any stressors in his or her life.

Bulimia nervosa causes the patient to develop other mental health disorders. Common mental health disorders that can develop in conjunction with bulimia nervosa include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Body Dysmorphia
  • Anorexia
  • Binge Eating Disorder

Physical and Medical Health

Bulimia nervosa has serious medical consequences to consider. There are many uncomfortable, serious, and even fatal side effects of bulimia nervosa. Such side effects include:

  • Dehydration
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Gum disease
  • Acid reflux
  • Stomach pain and bleeding
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Amenorrhea
  • Infertility

Bulimia nervosa has the potential to cause heart failure. The effects of binging and purging and extreme dieting include anemia, irregular heartbeat, and an imbalance of electrolytes. These each contribute to the increased chances of heart failure.


A patient with bulimia nervosa will begin to distance him or herself from family and close friends. The patient will often feel ashamed of his or her bulimic behaviors, like purging, binging and obsessing about body image. It also causes close friends and family to begin to ask questions and try to intervene. In an effort to keep the bulimic behaviors a secret, patients will withdraw from their family and peers.

Bulimia nervosa will cause fluctuations in mood. Bulimia nervosa causes a great deal of stress and strain on the body and mind. Often a patient will face an internal struggle regarding his or her overall self-esteem and body image. This coupled with the exhaustion from the body\’s coping with the fluctuations in nutrition and diet causes a person to become irritable and experience mood swings.

Family and friends are often concerned about a person\’s bulimia. If you feel you or a friend is suffering from bulimia nervosa or a related disorder it is important to seek mental health and medical attention. This will prevent further complications and get the person in question the help he or she needs.

How Bulimia Nervosa Affects The Body

Bulimia has devastating effects on a patient’s body.

The malnutrition from improper diet and trauma to the body from purging behaviors can lead to serious medical consequences if not properly treated.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that has serious medical and physical health consequences. A patient who is bulimic will engage in behavior to prevent weight gain. He or she will struggle with self-esteem and self-image. There will be destructive behavior that has an effect on the patient\’s overall health.

A patient with bulimia nervosa will engage in binging and purging. Binging is eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time, typically within about two hours. The patient will continue to eat even after he or she has become uncomfortably full. This indulgent behavior will leave the patient feeling guilty and anxious. These feelings result in purging.

Purging is the act of expelling calories and food consumed during a binge. Purging can be performed several different ways:

  • Misuse of laxatives
  • Inducing vomiting
  • Misuse of diet pills or diuretics

Bulimia nervosa has a negative impact on the patient\’s overall health. The act of purging has medical consequences because it causes stomach acid to be pushed throughout the body. It also causes strain on the stomach muscles and internal organs as the muscles forcefully retract when vomiting and other purging efforts are induced. Common immediate side effects of binging and purging include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Sore throat
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue and muscle exhaustion
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Swelling of the mouth, cheeks and jaw
  • Constipation or diarrhea from overuse of diuretics, laxatives, and diet pills

These side effects cause discomfort for the patient. They also serve as warning signs for more serious and prolonged health consequences. Such health consequences include:

  • Torn esophagus and stomach lining, causing blood in vomit and excretions
  • Kidney and liver damage
  • Hemorrhoids (Inflammation of the rectum and anus, causing pain and blood in stool.)
  • Infertility
  • Amenorrhea (Absence of a menstrual cycle)

The most serious health consequence of bulimia nervosa is heart failure. Regurgitating food consumed creates issues with the body\’s circulatory system. When food is regurgitated the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs from foods. This deprivation of nutrients results in serious heart and blood issues, like anemia and irregular heartbeat. If left unaddressed the complications can cause heart failure. Heart failure is the result of low blood pressure, low levels of electrolytes and low levels of potassium in the body.

Bulimia nervosa has the potential to develop into anorexia nervosa. The superficial goal of bulimic behavior is to prevent weight gain. People with bulimia are not underweight and do not restrict their diets as severely as those with anorexia nervosa. The indicative factor that the condition has progressed to anorexia nervosa is low body weight. Once the patient’s body mass index (BMI) reaches a level below average he or she is at risk for developing anorexia.

Anorexia is a serious condition that causes the patient to restrict his or her diet and engage in excessive measures to prevent weight gain. Anorexia puts the patient at risk for serious medical issues, including heart failure and sudden death.

It is important to treat bulimia nervosa at early stages of the disorder. Bulimia nervosa is a mental health condition that needs attention from mental health professionals. If you feel you may be suffering from bulimia nervosa speak to your doctor or mental health professional about intervention.

Treatment For Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a complicated disorder to treat.

Many people who suffer from bulimia nervosa will need to be in treatment for months or even years.

A combination of medical and mental health intervention is used to treat bulimia nervosa.

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Even though it is not easy to get treatment and therapy for bulimia, proper medical and psychiatric intervention is often necessary to prevent the condition from becoming severe. It can be hard to get treated for bulimia, especially in the initial months. Medical and mental health professionals use a combination of:

  • Medical monitoring
  • Psychiatric medication
  • Mental health counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Nutritional education
  • Exercise regiments

It is not uncommon for a person to be resistant to getting treatment for bulimia nervosa. It can be very stressful for a patient to comply with treatment. This is because the patient lets go of many poor habits that he or she believes to be helping them or improving their quality of life in some way. It takes a great deal of patience, trust, and commitment from everyone involved in helping a patient successfully complete treatment and rehabilitation for bulimia nervosa.

A patient with bulimia nervosa will either be treated in an inpatient or outpatient setting. For more severe cases, a patient may need to reside in an inpatient or rehabilitation center as he or she stabilizes their physical and mental health. In the inpatient and rehabilitation centers, a patient will be closely monitored and undergo intensive mental health treatment.

Common forms of therapy incorporated into the treatment of a patient with bulimia include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Nutritional education
  • Psychiatric treatment
  • Family therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Behavior therapy

With commitment of both the patient and the family, it is possible to learn tools to cope with bulimia nervosa. However, bulimia nervosa is a serious mental health disorder that involves a tough treatment and recovery process. It will take time and patience for a patient to recover.

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