Updated on 3/6/2023
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is extremely dangerous, both physically and mentally. If we are to prevent and treat bulimia, we must recognize both the classic signs of bulimia and the behaviors and circumstances that do not receive as much attention. Bulimia is treatable, does not only impact women and can impact all shapes and body sizes.
You’ve likely heard of bulimia before. A certain image may even come to mind when you hear the word “bulimia.” You might think about a thin, white female stuck in a vicious binge-purge cycle. You might even think about this individual vomiting. The truth, however, is much more complex. We’ve all seen the Lifetime movies: a high schooler walks into the bathroom stall after eating lunch in the school cafeteria. We hear retching and then the girl comes out of the stall to clean out her mouth with some water from the sink. In just a few minutes, we are shown the classic perception of what someone with bulimia looks like. But is this really what the disorder is all about?
Myths and Facts about Bulimia
MYTH: Bulimia nervosa only impacts women.
FACT: Bulimia nervosa affects people of all genders. Those in the transgender community are at a high risk for developing eating disorders. Cisgender men are also increasingly at risk for eating disorders like bulimia and gay men are also disproportionately impacted by these illnesses.
MYTH: Self-induced vomiting is the only compensatory behavior that clinicians and family members should be on the lookout for when diagnosing someone with bulimia nervosa.
FACT: Those struggling with bulimia may engage in compensatory behaviors of many kinds, including excessive exercise, using laxatives or diet pills and more. It’s important to know about the various causes and symptoms of bulimia.
MYTH: Someone struggling with bulimia nervosa is likely to be in a small body.
FACT: People with bulimia come in all shapes and sizes, and it is important that we remember that ALL eating disorders are mental illnesses that cannot be detected by looking at someone’s body size. Eating disorders do not have a body type!
MYTH: Bulimia is untreatable.
FACT: As with all eating disorders, bulimia nervosa is treatable with the right team and the right treatment approach. Research shows us that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), when administered by a competent and compassionate recovery team, offers someone the best chance for recovery.
Know the Facts about Bulimia
There are many more myths about bulimia out there. Though we have only covered a handful, these misconceptions have real-life consequences. The misconceptions, when unchecked, can determine who gains access to treatment, who is considered deserving of treatment and more. If we hope to treat and prevent eating disorders in the long-term, it is important that we recognize these myths and provide the facts that disprove them.
Get Help for Bulimia and Eating Disorders
The consequences of bulimia can be devastating or even fatal. If you or someone you care about is struggling with bulimia or any other eating disorder, help is available. Reach out to us today to learn more about our effective treatment options for bulimia and other eating disorders that are changing lives every day.
Ashley M. Seruya is a social work student, virtual assistant, and content creator specializing in eating disorder recovery, Health at Every Size, and weight stigma.