Bulimia Nervosa

Published on August 30th, 2018

Updated on March 20th, 2024

Living With Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa (bulimia) is a disorder that many people struggle to live with each day. It is an eating disorder in which a person suffers from a fear of gaining weight. People with bulimia engage in harmful behaviors to prevent weight gain. They will practice extreme dieting and excessive exercise. They will also engage in bingeing and purging.

Bingeing and purging is the act of eating a lot of food in a short amount of time and immediately vomiting or using laxatives. Purging behavior is done to prevent weight gain. A person with bulimia has episodes of eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time, typically within about two hours. They will continue to eat even after they become uncomfortably full. This indulgent behavior will leave them feeling guilty and anxious, which results in purging.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Suffering from bulimia is scary, and very challenging to control. A person with bulimia will struggle to feel in control of their condition. They may feel helpless, even if they want to stop the unhealthy behaviors that bulimia causes.

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Sometimes it can be difficult to identify symptoms and warning signs of bulimia. This is partially because a person who suffers from bulimia may maintain an average body weight or be overweight. They may also try to hide or downplay their symptoms to avoid attention or confrontation.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

Symptoms of Bingeing/Purging

Causes of Bulimia Nervosa

Several factors may contribute to the onset of bulimia. Each factor that may cause bulimia will put an affected person at higher risk for serious life consequences. These consequences will affect both the body and the mind.

Mental Health Issues. People with bulimia have deeper emotional issues that they may not understand or know how to cope with. This causes the affected person to project their mental health issues onto their body image. They will use bingeing and purging and extreme dieting behaviors to relieve the pain and stress brought about by their emotional issues. This quickly becomes a maladaptive cycle as the affected person begins to engage in bulimic behaviors as a way to cope with stress.

Mental health issues that can co-occur with bulimia include:

Low Self-Esteem. Low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence may cause a person to engage in harmful behaviors to compensate for their poor self-image. This can be especially prevalent for those who struggle with managing stress healthily. Such people may project their struggles with coping with stress onto their body image because it is a tangible target for their frustration.

Family Influence. Eating disorders can run in families. People with bulimia may have family members who suffer from bulimia or other eating disorders as well. A person can learn behaviors of bulimia when there is someone to model behaviors of bulimia or other eating disorders. Families who value unhealthy body image beliefs can also cause a person to develop unhealthy beliefs and expectations about their own body.

A person with bulimia nervosa will often feel ashamed of their bulimic behaviors, like purging, bingeing, and obsessing about body image. They may also grow fearful of their loved ones discovering their unhealthy behaviors and try to stop them. To keep the bulimic behaviors a secret, affected people will typically withdraw from their family and friends, who often grow concerned about the warning signs they are noticing.

Treatment for Bulimia

Bulimia is a serious condition that can lead to mental and physical health consequences if left untreated. Treating bulimia requires patience, trust, and commitment.

Mental health professionals who specialize in eating disorders have various therapeutic tools to aid recovery. They often work alongside a treatment team, which consists of the following:

Therapy is an important part of recovery from bulimia. Professional counselors who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders are trained in therapeutic approaches that help people in recovery.
Some common forms of therapy used include:

The treatment and recovery process for bulimia is intense, but with the commitment of the affected person, their family, and their treatment team, recovery is possible. Recovery requires a commitment to the process, which can be difficult for the affected person at first. People with bulimia are often resistant to starting treatment for their condition but can achieve success if they are consistent with their treatment. Seek help from a mental health professional if you feel you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia.

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