Bulimia Nervosa

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What is Bulimia Nervosa?

  • Uncontrolled eating (binging) followed by efforts to prevent weight gain, such as purging.
  • affects women and men of all ages
  • efforts to prevent weight gain can include laxatives, enemas, diuretics, crash diets, and purging

If you believe these symptoms pertain to you, or a close loved one, please seek help. Do not feel afraid, there are many others going through the same battles with food. Do not feel anxious or scared to see a doctor. They are here to help you build better relationships with yourself and with food.

What are the Symptoms?

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center symptoms include, but are nor limited to:
  • exercising for hours
  • constant changes in weight gain/loss
  • bad breath and/or sore throat
  • loss of control over eating
  • constipation, nausea, diarrhea, dehydration
  • using the bathroom during meals
  • missed periods
  • binge eating in secret

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms please contact your doctor. Diagnosing bulimia nervosa does not have to be a negative, it can be a great beginning to finding help and building a more positive relationship with food and your own body.

What are the Causes?

There is no known cause, but rather several factors that could lead to the development of bulimia nervosa.
  • Stress from family and/or friends to achieve certain unrealistic goals, or being overly critical
  • Low self-esteem and/or low anger management abilities
  • Not being able to control impulsive behaviors
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Those suffering from substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression
  • Genetics, family history of eating disorders

Bulimia nervosa can develop from one or many of the factors listed above. This disorder is often uner-diagnosed because people suffering are of normal weight, even overweight.

Common Myths

  • Myth: Bulimia only affects women

Fact: Both men and women can be affected. According to Abnormal Psychology men are better at hiding their disorder. This is especially seen in athletes.

  • Myth: Bulimia is always linked to vomiting

Fact: There are many other was of attempting to avoid weight gain such as laxatives,

diuretics, and crash diets may be used.

  • Myth: Dieting causes bulimia

Fact: Dieting is not always the cause. Bulimia usually develops because of the need

or inability to control proper intake of food.

  • Myth: Bulimia is not life-threatening

Fact: With the binging and purging nutrients essential to normal body functioning

are lost and through these deficiencies you can develop serious body dysfunctions

such as heart problems, ulcers, and even a burned esophagus from stomach acid in

the throat.

Ask yourself....

  • Do you constantly battle between the overcoming need to eat and desire to be thin?
  • Do you feel guilty and/or panic after consuming a large meal?
  • Does food consume your thoughts throughout the day?
  • Are you afraid to start eating in fear of not being able to stop?
  • Do you ever eat until you feel nauseous?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions please come to us for help.

Treatment Options

As mentioned in the links below bulimia can result in many medical complications, so treatment is an important factor in order to nurse the body back to health. Treatment for bulimia nervosa include psychotherapies such as:
  • CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy)- adapting attitudes towards one's weight and reintroducing forbidden foods into a client's diet. (ex: You tend to have binge episodes when you eat a whole box of pizza. The therapist will help you appreciate your body for what it is, and slowly introduce pizza into your diet without letting those binges consume your eating styles.)
  • IPT (Interpersonal Therapy)- client and therapist discuss interpersonal problems relating to bulimia and develop strategies to overcome them. (ex. If family stress is causing you to binge and purge the therapist will work through these family stressors in order to help you dissociate food with stress).
  • Group Therapy- working in a group with other people going through the same problems as you in order to help each other and talk about each others problems.

CBT has shown to be the most effective form of treatment for bulimia nervosa, as seen in the link below about treatment options.

Links to Studies and helpful websites for more information


Bulimia nervosa. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7638

Bulimia nervosa. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/bulimia-nervosa

Crow, S., Mitchell, J. (2006). Medical complications of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 19(4), 438-443. http://journals.lww.com/co-psychiatry/Abstract/2006/07000/Medical_complications_of_anorexia_nervosa_and.19.aspx

Fairburn, C., Jones, R., Solomon, R. (1991). Three psychological treatments for bulimia nervosa: A Comparative Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 48(5), 463-469. http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=495355

Hoeksema-Nolen.S (2014). (ab) normal Psychology. Sixth Edition New York, NY