Flaticon Icon This Byte describes symptoms of eating disorders and may be traumatic to some readers.

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Some people may develop an eating disorder for many different reasons.

Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder with many different causes and effects.

Knowing the warning signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa can help you or a loved one get help before the illness disrupts your life and harms your physical health.

What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that refers to a specific pattern of behaviors around eating.

Flaticon Icon Main behaviors that characterize bulimia nervosa:

  • Frequently occurring episodes of binge eating, in which a lot of food is consumed quickly

  • A feeling of loss of control during the binge eating episode

  • Recurrent purging behaviors, such as forced vomiting, or usinglaxatives or diuretics to clear out the binged food

  • Excessive exercise or fasting (not eating for a long period of time) after binge episodes

  • A strong preoccupation with body shape and fear of gaining weight

  • Feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust after binge eating or purging episodes

Understanding the cycle of binging and purging

Recognizing the early signs is crucial.

Flaticon Icon Binging:

  • eating large amounts of food quickly

Flaticon Icon Purging:

  • forcing one's self to vomit the food consumed

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Other behaviors can include:

  • depriving one's self of food (fasting)

  • overexercising

  • misusing laxatives (constipation medication) and diuretics (medication for bodily fluids) for purging

  • misusing stimulants for weight loss

  • following extreme diets

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Physical symptoms can include:

  • a constant sore throat

  • salivary glands and jaw are swollen

  • worn tooth enamel

  • gastrointestinal issues, acid reflux

  • intestinal discomfort and irritability

  • severe dehydration

  • heart attack risk factors

Flaticon Icon It's never too early or too late to get help.

If you notice these symptoms, get medical attention right away.

Who does it affect?

Anyone can develop bulimia nervosa but it especially affects:

Flaticon Icon Adolescents and young adults from across the gender spectrum who experience the effects of:

  • low self-esteem

  • body image concerns or stigma around their weight

  • social challenges like bullying or isolation

  • a history of anxiety, trauma, or other psychological factors

  • family history of eating disorders or other mental health conditions

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Athletes and performance artists:

  • sings and symptoms of bulimia nervosa may result from "tremendous pressure" to keep their body weight or shape in a certain condition

Flaticon Icon It's important to understand that every person is unique, and the risk factors for developing an eating disorder like bulimia can vary from person to person.

Worrisome signs

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Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • having a fixation on calories consumed

  • excessive concern with and fixation on weight

  • self-harming or having low self-esteem

  • suicidal tendencies

  • an irregular menstrual cycle

  • frequent bathroom visits, especially after meals, accompanied by the smell of vomit

  • depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders

  • frequently eating unusually large portions of food

  • use of diet pills, laxatives, and diuretics

  • excessive exercise

  • dry skin, nails, hairs

  • fatigue and exhaustion

There may be many other symptoms, which you can read about here.

Who is at a higher risk to develop bulimia nervosa?

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David, a 25-year-old marketer, recently went through a difficult breakup. Since then, David has been experiencing stress and low self-esteem. He has recently been overexercising and skipping meals in an effort to lose weight.

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Emily, a 35-year-old accountant, is attempting to lose weight by eating healthier food and engaging in more physical activity. She is committed to making gradual changes to her lifestyle to achieve her desired results in a safe and sustainable way.


Who is more likely to develop bulimia nervosa?

Take Action

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Bulimia nervosa is a serious condition that can harm your health. Consult a doctor to get treatment if you or a loved one is showing signs and symptoms of bulimia.

Learn more about bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders from these resources and related Bytes:


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