Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder. If you have this disorder, you eat larger amounts of food than most people would eat in a short time. You may then purge by making yourself vomit or using laxatives. Purging is meant to make up for binging. You may also cut back on eating or exercise too much to make up for binging.
Most people with bulimia have a normal weight but feel they cannot control their eating. Some people swing back and forth between anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia is an eating problem that occurs when people are so afraid of becoming overweight that they eat as little as possible.
Although the disorder can affect men, most people with bulimia are young women. If you are pregnant, eating disorders can affect your health and your baby’s development.
You may stay preoccupied with eating for many years. You may need to continue taking medicine or having therapy for many months. Being under a lot of stress can cause a relapse. The earlier you seek treatment, the more successful it is likely to be.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. It may be related to problems with the chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and appetite.
If you have bulimia you may:
Signs and symptoms of bulimia include:
People with bulimia may also abuse alcohol and drugs, and take harmful risks.
Bulimia is especially dangerous when vomiting or laxatives are used to remove food from the body. Either habit can cause an electrolyte imbalance that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death.
Your healthcare provider takes a medical history, orders lab tests, and does a physical exam. He or she will ask about your eating patterns, looking for such behavior as:
If you have bulimia, you must recognize that you are suffering from a dangerous disorder. Treatment involves getting your eating habits back to normal. Your healthcare provider may suggest that you meet with a dietician to create a healthy eating plan. You may also benefit from psychotherapy or family counseling. Psychotherapy, either individual or group therapy, is very important. You may also need medicine used for mood disorders, such as antidepressants, antianxiety medicines, or mood stabilizers.
You may need to be hospitalized if your condition is severe and life threatening.
Change how you think about yourself and food. You may need therapy for a short time or for many months. One very helpful form of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps you identify and change thought processes that create eating disorders. The therapist will also help you learn how to deal with emotions, relationship problems, and stress in a healthy way.