Bulimia is an eating disorder. People with bulimia are overly worried about their weight and body image. They binge and purge their food. Bingeing is eating large amounts of food. Purging is using vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics to get it out of the body. Exercise may be used to replace purging, or it may be used with it. The cycle is done to stop weight gain.
The cause is not known. It may be due to a mix of genes and the environment.
Bulimia is more common in young women. Other things that may raise the risk are:
People with bulimia have a healthy weight. But, their habits are not healthy. Bulimia may cause:
Physical problems may be:
The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and eating habits. A physical and mental health exam will be done. Other tests may be:
Bulimia can lead to severe heart problems.
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The goal of treatment is to develop healthy habits and thought patterns. Treatment can include a combination of:
There are no known guidelines to prevent bulimia.
Bulimia Nervosa Resource Guide for Family and Friends
National Eating Disorders Association
Canadian Mental Health Association
National Eating Disorder Information Center
Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/bulimia-nervosa. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Bulimia nervosa. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Bulimia nervosa. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa. Updated August 28, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.
Eating disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated February, 2016 Accessed August 31, 2018.
Harrington BC, Jimerson M, et al. Initial evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Am Fam Physician. 2015 Jan 1;91(1):46-52.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 04/14/2021