Bulimia Nervosa

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What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is an illness of repetitive binge eating, in which a person feels a loss of control of normal eating, consumes extreme amounts of food, and then attempts to counteract the effects of doing so by inducing vomiting; taking large amounts of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics; exercising in an extreme manner; or fasting for extended periods.

Among its unique aspects:

  • Usual time of onset is age 15 to 25
  • Affects an estimated 1-2% of adolescent girls and young women
  • Approximately 80% of patients with bulimia nervosa are female
  • People with bulimia nervosa are typically of normal weight
  • Can cause electrolyte imbalances that can lead to cardiac irregularities and possibly heart failure and death
  • Frequently associated with attempts at weight loss
  • Often accompanied by feelings of shame and low self-regard

Risk factors:

  • Often linked to history of being overweight or teasing about weight
  • Can be preceded by low self-regard
  • History of marked stress or trauma

Warning signs:

  • Frequent use of bathroom immediately after meals
  • Showering after meals
  • Large quantities of food missing from kitchen, or presence of wrappers and food containers indicating consumption of large quantities of food
  • Extreme mood instability
  • Swelling of glands around the jaw
  • Apparent bruising or calluses on back of hands or knuckles
  • Excessive preoccupation with weight and appearance