What is bulimia nervosa?
Bulimia (say "boo-LEE-mee-uh") is a type of eating disorder. People with bulimia will eat a large amount of food in a short time (binge). Then they will do something to get rid of the food (purge). They may vomit, exercise too much, or use medicines like laxatives.
People who have bulimia may binge because food gives them a feeling of comfort. But eating too much makes them feel out of control. After they binge, they feel ashamed, guilty, and afraid of gaining weight. This causes them to purge.
Without treatment, this "binge and purge" cycle can lead to serious, long-term health problems. Acid in the mouth from vomiting can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of tooth enamel. Any type of purging can lead to bone thinning (osteoporosis), kidney damage, heart problems, or even death.
If you or someone you know has bulimia or another eating disorder, get help. Eating disorders can be dangerous. And willpower alone is not enough to overcome them. Treatment can help a person who has an eating disorder feel better and be healthier.
What causes bulimia?
All eating disorders are complex problems, and experts do not really know what causes them. But they may be caused by a mix of family history, social factors, and personality traits. You may be more likely to have bulimia if:
Bulimia is most common in:
While bulimia often starts in the teen years, it usually lasts into adulthood and is a long-term disorder.
What are the symptoms?
People with bulimia:
Any one of these can be a sign of an eating disorder that needs treatment.
How can you know if someone has bulimia?
Bulimia is different from anorexia nervosa, another eating disorder. People who have anorexia eat so little that they become extremely thin. People who have bulimia may not be thin. They may be a normal size. They may binge in secret and deny that they are purging. This makes it hard for others to know that a person with bulimia has a serious problem.
If you are concerned about someone, look for the following signs. A person may have bulimia if she:
How is it treated?
Bulimia can be treated with psychological counseling and sometimes medicines, such as antidepressants. The sooner treatment is started, the better. Getting treatment early can make recovery easier and prevent serious health problems.
By working with a counselor, a person with bulimia can learn to feel better about herself. She can learn to eat normally again and stop purging.
Other mental health problems such as depression often happen with bulimia. If a person has another condition along with bulimia, more treatment may be needed, and it may take longer to get better.
Eating disorders can take a long time to overcome. And it is common to fall back into unhealthy ways of eating. If you are having problems, don't try to handle them on your own. Get help.
What should you do if you think someone has bulimia?
It can be very scary to realize that someone you care about has an eating disorder. If you think a friend or loved one has bulimia, you can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
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