Bulimia Nervosa: Things you need to know about this Eating Disorder

“Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder usually characterized by periods of binging—or excessive overeating—followed by some kind of compensatory behavior.

People with bulimia tend to overeat after which they induce vomiting and/or purging. Some also compensate by excessive workouts or fasting. Basically, after overeating, they compensate for what they have eaten so they don’t become overweight. Bulimia has been known to affect both males and females.

Major features of someone who is bulimic include
  • Eating a very large amount of food within a relatively short period of time (e.g. within two hours)
  • Feeling a sense of loss of control while eating (e.g. feeling unable to stop yourself from eating)
  • Compensating by vomiting, misusing laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, and use of any drugs
Bulimia, Eating disorder
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Unlike anorexia nervosa, people who are bulimic are not usually underweight. They are overweight or have a normal weight. They become bulimic as a measure to lose weight or maintain weight.

Someone with bulimia is mostly bothered about their weight and body shape. They judge themselves for not conforming to a certain image. Only then can they be truly happy. Anorexia nervosa also has the same conception but the major differences between these two (2) eating disorders is that with anorexia, the individual starves themselves while with bulimia, there is overeating after which there is a compensatory behavior.

Bulimia has also been known to be associated with depression, anxiety and problems with drugs or alcohol.

“A person with bulimia nervosa can become lost in a dangerous cycle of out of control eating and attempts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and disgust. These behaviours can become more compulsive and uncontrollable over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting and body image.

National Eating Disorder Collaboration

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

So I could list the signs and symptoms of this eating disorder but National Eating Disorder Collaboration has put it so well. They divided it into three (3) and these are; physical signs, psychological signs and behavioral signs.

Physical Signs
Bulimia, Eating disorder
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  • Frequent changes in weight (loss or gain)
  • Signs of damage due to vomiting including swelling around the cheeks or jaw, calluses on knuckles, damage to teeth and bad breath
  • Feeling bloated, constipated or developing intolerances to food
  • Loss of or disturbance of menstrual periods in girls and women
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Feeling tired and not sleeping well
Psychological Signs
Bulimia, Eating disorder
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  • Preoccupation with eating, food, body shape and weight
  • Sensitivity to comments relating to food, weight, body shape or exercise
  • Low self-esteem and feelings of shame, self-loathing or guilt, particularly after eating
  • Having a distorted body image (e.g. seeing themselves as overweight even if they are in a healthy weight range for their age and height)
  • Obsession with food and need for control
  • Depression, anxiety or irritability
  • Extreme body dissatisfaction

Related: Emotional Insecurity

Behavioral Signs
Bulimia, Eating disorder
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  • Evidence of binge eating (e.g. disappearance or hoarding of food)
  • Vomiting or using laxatives, enemas, appetite suppressants or diuretics
  • Eating in private and avoiding meals with other people
  • Anti-social behaviour, spending more and more time alone
  • Repetitive or obsessive behaviours relating to body shape and weight (e.g. weighing themselves repeatedly, looking in the mirror obsessively and pinching waist or wrists)
  • Secretive behaviour around food (e.g. saying they have eaten when they haven’t, hiding uneaten food in their rooms)
  • Compulsive or excessive exercising (e.g. exercising in bad weather, continuing to exercise when sick or injured, and experiencing distress if exercise is not possible)
  • Dieting behaviour (e.g. fasting, counting calories/kilojoules, avoiding food groups such as fats and carbohydrates)
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom during or shortly after meals which could be evidence of vomiting or laxative use
  • Erratic behaviour (e.g. spending large amounts of money on food)
  • Self-harm, substance abuse or suicide attempts

What Causes Bulimia?

Bulimia, Eating disorder
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There are no particular reasons to which someone becomes bulimic. However, the following could be a factor.

  • Genetic factor

It is believed that there are certain genetic predispositions to eating disorders. Also there are certain hormones such as serotonin, and sex hormones that have been known to influence appetites and hormones. People who have relatives with this disorder can also be at risk of getting it.

  • Social and environmental factor

Social media portrays an ideal body image which makes people feel pressured to look a certain way. This can have an effect on people as they resort to some compensatory behavior to lose weight after eating of which overtime, it results into an eating disorder such as with bulimia.

Also, some people grew up in environments that made them feel ashamed of the kind of body image they had. Some were pressured by friends and family to become a certain way. They also feel that being a certain weight favors them more that being overweight. All these influence this type of eating disorder.

The truth is, eating disorders don’t show up in otherwise emotionally healthy individuals. Bulimia develops out of a complicated mixture of biological, psychological, and social factors. Underlying issues typically include: Feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, depression

Catherine Stuart, writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope
Bulimia, Eating disorder
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It’s important to note also that bulimia is not really about food, it’s actually a psychological disorder that needs to be taken care of just as we would do others.

Bulimia is quite dangerous because a bulimic person is in danger of some medical conditions due to the constant vomiting (which may cause ulcers and inflammation of the oesophagus) and purging.

If you are bulimic or you know someone is, it is important that you or that person get help by going to a medical center where you can meet with a therapist or psychiatrist. They would know the course of action you would take in combatting this.

People with eating disorders are often afraid to ask for help. Some are struggling just as much as you are to find a way to start a conversation about their problem, while others have such low self-esteem they simply don’t feel that they deserve any help. Whatever the case, eating disorders will only get worse without treatment, and the physical and emotional damage can be severe. The sooner you start to help, the better their chances of recovery. While you can’t force someone with an eating disorder to get better, having supportive relationships is vital to their recovery. Your love and encouragement can make all the difference.

Help Guide

You can check out some of these articles to know more about this eating disorder

Have you ever had an eating disorder? Do you know someone who does? I would love to read all about it in the comment section.

Meanwhile, you can connect with me on facebooktwitter and instagram @theroyaldeviant Also, don’t forget to subscribe, to get more of these kind of contents right in your mail box.


  1. Oluchi said:

    I’ve never heard about this before but it seems like it should be a common disease. You never talked about the % of people that have this disease or how frequently it is being diagnosed.

    Thanks for this article.

    January 20, 2019
    • Nakas said:

      That is true and a nice observation too. Thank you for that. I tried getting something within Nigeria but there were no real evidence. I probably should have used a general statistics or in the US. Next time I will.

      Thank you for your comment ?

      January 20, 2019

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