Resources & Education

Bulimia Nervosa

About Bulimia Nervosa

  • The majority of people with bulimia nervosa are female (10:1 female-to-male ratio)
  • People with nulimia nervosa often appear to be of average body weight
  • People with bulimia nervosa may also experience symptoms of depression

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating (characterized by eating large amounts of food in a short period of time and a sense of loss of control over eating behavior)
  • Use of inappropriate, compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, fasting, and/or obsessive/ compulsive exercise
  • The binge eating and compensatory behaviors occur at least once a week for 3 months
  • Self-evaluation is inappropriately influenced by the person’s weight and shape

Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Existence of binge eating (food wrappers and containers; food hoarding)
  • Evidence of purging behaviors (frequent trips to the restroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics)
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • Creation of complex lifestyle schedules or rituals (in order to allot time for binge eating and purging sessions)
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and/or activities
  • Behaviors and attitudes indicating a preoccupation with the importance of weight loss, dieting, and control of food

Health Consequences of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Electrolyte imbalances (can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death)
  • Inflammation and/or rupture of the esophagus
  • Tooth decay and/or staining
  • Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation
  • Gastric rupture

Description adapted from the National Eating Disorders Association and the DSM-5.