Signs & Symptoms Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is a serious emotional eating disorder that involves eating excessive amounts of food in a short period (binging) followed by guilt and shame leading to self-induced vomiting, extreme exercise, or laxative abuse (purging). Many refer to it as the binge and purge eating disorder.

The cycle of bingeing and purging becomes more and more difficult to break despite the distress being caused. Many people suffering from bulimia are aware that their behaviors could be dangerous to their health, but are often unable to break the cycle without professional help.

Bulimia Nervosa Statistics

Bulimia nervosa is the second most common eating disorder, after binge eating disorder, in the United States. The average age of diagnosis is 15 years of age; individuals with bulimia nervosa battle this disorder for eight years, on average. Unlike anorexia nervosa, only 3.5 percent of individuals are considered underweight whereas the majority of these individuals have a normal body weight and even some are considered overweight.

Symptoms & Warning Signs

Bulimia can impact anyone, regardless of body size, gender, age and culture. That’s why it’s important to identify these warning signs that you or someone you know may be struggling with bulimia:

Take a Free Eating Disorder Evaluation

This evaluation can help determine if you or a loved one may benefit from consulting with an eating disorder professional.

  • Eating unusually large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time, also known as binge eating
  • Feeling out of control with food
  • Eating until uncomfortably full
  • Intentionally vomiting after eating
  • Using the bathroom during or immediately following meals
  • Exercising vigorously in order to compensate for food eaten, despite fatigue, injury or illness
  • Using medications or substances such as laxatives, diuretics or diet pills after a binge episode in order to prevent weight gain
  • Feeling preoccupied, worried or sad about body or weight
  • Struggling to fulfill responsibilities as a result of eating patterns, exercise habits or thoughts about appearance

Risks & Complications

Bulimia, if left untreated, has serious consequences that impact quality of life, and even be life-threatening.

  • Electrolyte abnormalities (from laxative and diuretic abuse as well as vomiting)
  • Fluid loss resulting in dehydration (from laxative and diuretic abuse as well as vomiting)
  • Gastric reflux disease (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Internal bleeding secondary to esophageal and gastric tears (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Severe fluctuations in weight
  • Nutrient depletion (from laxative and diuretic abuse as well as vomiting)
  • Rebound constipation (from laxative use)
  • Digestion complications (from laxative use)
  • Dental cavities (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Excoriations on back of hands (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Cardiac complications from electrolytes abnormalities
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
  • Sore throat (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Hoarse voice (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Swollen salivary glands (from self-induced vomiting) 

Causes of Bulimia

There are many causes that can contribute to this disease and they can include genetic factors, neurochemical imbalances, and environmental stressors such as exposure to trauma or abuse. Other psychological and emotional issues such as an anxiety disorder, depression and low self-esteem are also known triggers in a person who is predisposed to having an eating disorder.

The nature of our culture that is hyper focused on thin-ideal internalization and general social pressure for thinness can also serve as a trigger for susceptible individuals. Other risk factors that have been identified for bulimia nervosa include substance abuse, feelings of inadequacy, experiencing early puberty, having too little to eat during childhood, psychiatric symptoms, and low appetite and emotional awareness.

Bulimia Nervosa Treatment

Bulimia, like other eating disorders, has an increased risk of death due to medical consequences or suicide. An individual’s chance for recovery greatly improves the earlier bulimia is detected, so prompt intervention is essential.

Seek Help

Bulimia, like other eating disorders, has an increased risk of death due to medical consequences or suicide. An individual’s chance for recovery greatly improves the earlier bulimia is detected, so prompt intervention is essential.

Center for Discovery’s Treatment Centers specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.

For more information, resources, or to consult with one of our specialists, call 866.482.3876.

Preferred In-Network Provider for All Major Health Insurance

Preferred In-Network Provider for All Major Health Insurance

  • I was sent to [Center for Discovery], an all women's eating disorder treatment facility, and I was terrified to go. I was told I would be there for a month and would return home after that. I ended staying there for almost 3 months, and I can honestly say I am beyond thankful for my time there. I learned so much and they helped me find myself and get over my traumas and learn to cope with issues that I was having. All the staff was super helpful and had my best interest at heart. I may have not liked all of them, but I knew they wanted what was best for me. Even after my insurance run out, the therapist I was working with arranged for me to go to another center to continue my treatment because I was not ready to come home. I highly recommend getting help with Center for Discovery. They truly care!
    Rebecca S
  • I was at [Center for Discovery] for 6 weeks. I'm from Ohio and being so far away from home was hard. The staff made me feel super comfortable and cared for, making my stay much more manageable. The program was very individualized. They worked hard to make sure my specific needs were met and that my specific behaviors were addressed. This is a top notch facility with incredibly caring staff. Not only were the house staff wonderful, but everyone from admissions to the medical director worked hard to make sure I knew what was going on. This is a wonderful company who are true to what they say. They gave me my life back. I'm someone who has been in and out of treatment for my eating disorder and this program was by far the best. I feel so optimistic about my future. The progress I made there was life changing and I will be forever grateful. I recommend this program to anyone who is serious, willing, and ready to get better.
    Natalie F
  • I was surprised by my parents with the option of going to get help for my eating disorder and overall unhealthy lifestyle. I so badly wanted to get help, but was too ashamed. After talking to my mom I agreed to at least talk to someone from Center for Discoveryabout what program I would be in and what it would be like. The gal was super helpful, kind, and did not make me feel like I was the only person who suffered from what I did. She was very patient with me and overall helped out our family with the process of insurance and costs and what not. As for the actual facility I stayed at, it was a great experience.
    Rebecca S
  • We had our son in an acute care hospital and the social worker recommended the Center for Discovery. Before our son was discharged, my wife and I met with the staff and toured the facility. We were impressed by the staff and how the program was structured. Our son was there 6 weeks. It was a game changer and now we feel our son left with a good base of skills that he has continued to use. We now feel our son can leave a normal type life and not have to worry that he may need to live in a group home setting as an adult. We can't say enough for the help and support we received from the entire staff at the Center for Discovery. When we were considering the facility we did some reviews on line. Some weren't overly positive, but most were and we feel that it was a very positive experience for our son and our family. Even our son now admits that he learned some great skills and that his time at Center for Discovery turned his life around.
    John W
    Parent of Alumni

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