What Is Bulimia

Bulimia Nervosa also known as bulimia is an eating disorder that involves binging on copious quantities of food followed by purging. Those with bulimia often desire to rid the body of excess calories to maintain a desirable weight or body shape. Purging may involve vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or combinations thereof. 

Bulimia usually begins during adolescence and can persist into adulthood. People who have bulimia are individuals of varying body size, who are not trying to lose weight but have an intense fear of gaining weight due to their intense focus on body image. Because bulimia is a mental health disorder, it can be associated with feelings of depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. 

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What Is The Difference Between Bulimia And Anorexia

Bulimia and anorexia are both serious eating disorders that can have a devastating impact on a person’s health, relationships, and life overall. Although these two conditions have some similarities, there are also significant differences between them that should be noted. 

The primary difference between bulimia and anorexia is that bulimia involves episodes of overeating followed by compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting or purging to prevent weight gain. On the other hand, anorexia is characterized by extreme food restriction and an intense fear of weight gain. People with anorexia often see themselves as overweight even when they are dangerously underweight. 

In terms of symptoms, people with bulimia may experience binge eating episodes, irregular menstrual cycles, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances due to purging. People with anorexia, on the other hand, often exhibit signs of malnutrition, fatigue, dizziness, and thinning hair. 

Although both bulimia and anorexia can cause serious physical and psychological harm, the treatments for these two conditions can be quite different. People with bulimia may benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which focus on identifying unhealthy thought patterns and replacing them with healthier ways of thinking. Those with anorexia may require hospitalization and more intensive treatment plans that include nutrition education, therapy, and medication. 

Diagnosing Bulimia

Bulimia is a serious medical condition that requires an accurate diagnosis from a mental health professional. While there is no single test that can diagnose bulimia, there are several indicators that can help determine if someone is suffering from the eating disorder. 

Tests For Bulimia

  • Medical and physical A doctor can perform a physical exam to look for signs of the eating disorder, including rapid weight loss or gain, low body weight, dehydration, irregular menstrual cycles, and signs of electrolyte imbalances in the blood.  
  • Psychological Mental health professionals typically use psychological assessments such as the Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) and the Bulimia Test (BULIT) to assess symptoms of bulimia. These tests are designed to identify thought patterns associated with bulimia such as distorted body image, extreme concern with body weight and shape, and excessive food-related guilt.  
  • Behavorial Eating binges, self-induced vomiting, extreme dietary restriction, and other behaviors associated with bulimia may be identified through interviews and observation. 

It is important to remember that each individual case of bulimia is unique and requires specialized attention from a qualified mental health professional. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the signs or symptoms of bulimia, it is important to seek help from a doctor or therapist as soon as possible.

Warning Signs Someone Has Bulimia

Knowing the warning signs of bulimia can help you identify it early and get the person appropriate help and treatment.  

The following are some of the warning signs that someone may have bulimia: 

  • Eating large amounts of food in a short period of time (binge eating) 
  • Frequently going to the bathroom during or after meals 
  • Unusual food rituals such as cutting food into tiny pieces, counting calories or fat grams, or avoiding certain food groups 
  • Using the bathroom for extended periods of time after meals 
  • Vomiting after meals or taking laxatives or diuretics 
  • Tooth decay and gum/mouth issues due to stomach acid found in vomit 
  • Excessive exercising or an obsession with exercise 
  • Extreme fluctuations in weight  
  • Preoccupation with body shape and weight  
  • Feeling guilt, shame, disgust or depression after eating  
  • Withdrawal from activities and social events  
  • Avoidance of meals  
  • Hoarding food  
  • Unusual fluctuation in energy levels 

If you recognize these warning signs in yourself or someone you know, it is important to get help right away. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that require professional care. The sooner you seek treatment, the better chance you have of a successful recovery. 

Short-Term Effects Of Bulimia

Bulimia can have serious and immediate physical and mental health risks. It can cause a wide range of physical problems, including electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, constipation, abdominal pain, heart palpitations, and increased risk of heart attack. Other physical side effects of bulimia include damage to the digestive system, erosion of tooth enamel, fatigue, muscle weakness, and joint pain.  

In terms of mental health, bulimia can cause depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, impulsivity, obsessive thoughts about food, and preoccupation with body weight. It is also associated with an increased risk of suicide attempts.  

Finally, bulimia can also lead to social isolation as sufferers may withdraw from friends and family in order to hide their symptoms and behaviors. In addition, many people with Bulimia may neglect their responsibilities at school or work because of their disorder.

Long-Term Effects Of Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that can have serious long-term physical and emotional consequences. Long-term effects of bulimia can range from permanent damage to vital organs, including the digestive system, heart, and brain, to depression and anxiety. 

Physically, chronic vomiting caused by bulimia can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. This can cause headaches, fatigue, and dizziness, as well as irregular heartbeat, which can be life-threatening. Other physical health problems linked to bulimia include: 

Gastric rupture 

Irregular periods 

Stomach ulcers 

Tooth decay 

Skin irritation

Mentally, people with bulimia can experience extreme guilt and shame due to their eating behaviors, leading to anxiety and depression. They may also suffer from a loss of self-esteem, an inability to concentrate, or obsessive thoughts about food. If left untreated, these mental health issues can lead to further complications such as substance abuse or self-harm.  

Furthermore, bulimia can lead to social isolation due to the secrecy that often surrounds it. The fear of being judged or criticized for one’s eating behaviors can cause people with Bulimia to pull away from friends and family members, leading to loneliness and increased symptoms of depression.  

It’s important to remember that the physical and emotional risks of bulimia can be reversed through treatment. Eating disorders are highly treatable and the sooner you seek help, the more likely you are to make a full recovery. If you think you or someone you know may have bulimia, please don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support. 

Treatment For Bulimia

Bulimia is a serious eating disorder that requires professional care. Treatment for bulimia typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and treatment under medical supervision. 


The main goal of psychotherapy is to help the individual identify and change thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to bulimia. This may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), or Family Therapy. 

Nutritional Counselling 

Nutritional counselling can be beneficial for individuals with bulimia to address issues around nutrition, eating behaviors, and body image. A registered dietitian can help those in recovery develop healthier habits and establish nutritional food choices. 

Medical Supervision 

If there are any medical complications related to bulimia, such as electrolyte imbalances or heart problems, medical supervision is necessary to monitor and address those issues.  


Medications may also be prescribed in certain cases to help manage symptoms such as anxiety or depression.  

Support Groups 

Support groups can be beneficial for those struggling with bulimia. They provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and learn from others who are going through similar struggles.  

It is important to remember that recovery from bulimia is possible with the right treatment plan. It may take time, but with commitment and support, it is possible to make lasting changes that can lead to improved physical and mental health. Eating disorders are complex and require medical attention; if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please seek professional help as soon as possibl

Prevention Of Bulimia

Bulimia is a serious and complex mental health disorder, and like any mental health disorder, it is not something that can be prevented. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of developing bulimia.  

  • The first step is to build a keen sense of self-esteem and body acceptance. By learning to recognize and appreciate your unique strengths, talents, and beauty, you can cultivate a more positive self-image. Additionally, it is important to be mindful of the media messages you consume and the words you use when talking about yourself.  
  • It is also important to have meaningful relationships with family and friends. Having supportive relationships can help provide a buffer against stressors and negative emotions that can trigger eating disorders.  
  • In addition, seek out professional help if you or someone you know experiences symptoms of an eating disorder. Early intervention is key to recovering from an eating disorder and developing healthy coping strategies to prevent relapse.  
  • Finally, make sure to engage in activities that make you feel good. Doing things that bring you joy such as listening to music, playing a sport, writing, reading, or engaging in creative hobbies can provide an outlet for expressing emotions and boosting self-esteem.  

By focusing on cultivating positive self-image, building meaningful relationships, seeking professional help when necessary, and engaging in activities that bring joy, you can work toward creating a healthier relationship with food and your body.