Eating Disorders | Bulimia Nervosa

What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is defined as uncontrolled episodes of overeating (bingeing), followed by a means of purging such as:

  • self-induced vomiting
  • misuse of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics (medications that cause increased production of urine)
  • fasting
  • excessive exercise

Bingeing is defined as eating extremely large amounts of food in a short period of time (usually less than two hours). This is accompanied by a sense of loss of control while eating and is usually followed by profound feelings of guilt or shame.

It’s estimated that 1 to 5 percent of adolescents have bulimia nervosa. The condition is more common in girls and women than in boys and men.

Bulimia nervosa can have serious medical consequences. Early intervention and treatment are therefore extremely important.

What are the signs of bulimia nervosa?

If your child has bulimia nervosa, their symptoms may include:

  • feelings of dissatisfaction with themselves and their body’s appearance
  • preoccupation with food, weight, and body shape
  • episodes of eating excessive amounts of food in a relatively short period of time, often in secret
  • fear of not being able to stop eating during bingeing episodes
  • self-induced vomiting, usually in secret
  • excessive exercise or fasting after eating
  • inappropriate use of laxatives, diuretics, or other cathartics
  • irregular or missed menstrual periods

Physical signs of bulimia nervosa include:

  • swollen face
  • sore throat
  • dry, flaky skin
  • constant upset stomach
  • heartburn
  • constipation
  • scarring on the back of the fingers from self-induced vomiting
  • weight fluctuations

Bulimia complications

Bulimia nervosa is a serious disease. Complications a young adult with bulimia may include:

  • serious electrolyte problems, possibly leading to serious heart problems
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • loss of bone density
  • dehydration
  • tooth decay
  • constipation
  • anxiety
  • depression