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 of bulimia is unknown. It appears to be a mix of your genes, way of life, and environment.
Bulimia is more common in young women. Your risk is also higher for:
People with bulimia have a normal weight. But, their habits are not healthy.
Bulimia may cause:
Physical problems with bulimia:
Bulimia may lead to:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Your answers and a physical exam may point to bulimia. You may also have:
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The goal is to keep weight in a normal range in a healthy way. This is done by stopping harmful behaviors and thought patterns. For serious bulimia, care may start in a hospital.
This can be done with:
You will learn how to eat a healthful diet. You will also learn what your healthy weight and calorie goals are.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you learn to handle stress. You will change how you think. This will help you gain control of your feelings. You will also find out the cause of the problems you’re having.. Therapy may be alone or with a group.
Medicines will depend on other problems you may have. The most common are:
Healthy attitudes about food and your body help prevent bulimia.
Bulimia Nervosa Resource Guide for Family and Friends
NEDA—National Eating Disorders Association
Canadian Mental Health Association
National Eating Disorder Information Center
Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114924/Bulimia-nervosa . Updated July 16, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.
Bulimia nervosa. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa. Updated March 2018. Accessed August 31, 2018.
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.
Last reviewed May 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 8/31/2018