Understanding Bulimia Nervosa

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Currently, there is no specific cause of bulimia nervosa that researchers have been able to pinpoint. Brain imaging research continues to provide insight as to how eating disorders like bulimia nervosa work in the brain, which encourages further investigation into treatment methods. Psychologically, bulimia nervosa has roots to mental illness and trauma. Eating disorders like bulimia are often seen as manifestations of control. Trauma, and mental illness, can cause one to feel as though their lives are out of control. Themes of perfection which are common in eating disorders are an effort to compensate for the less-than-perfect areas of life. The fixation on body image, body purity, and often exercise is a personal self-defense mechanism and a way of taking one’s own life into their hands. Full of skewed perceptions and harmful beliefs, bulimia nervosa is a deeply mental but also physical disorder.

The Difference Between Bulimia And Anorexia

Bulimia consists of episodes of binging and purging. Binging is any episode of intentionally overeating for the sake of coping, or with the intention of purging later on. By way of excessive exercise, induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or restriction, the perceived consequences of a binge- such as gaining weight, feeling too full, or distorting appearance- are remedied. Anorexia, on the other hand, rarely includes binge eating episodes and focuses more on chronic restriction as well as starvation. With anorexia, there is typically evident changes in body weight. Bulimia doesn’t present the same obvious physical symptoms of anorexia, making it a dangerously hideable disorder.

Bulimia As A Co-Occurring Disorder

Bulimia and other eating disorders are commonly co-occurring with other mental health or substance use disorders. Bulimia is frequently co-occurring with depression, anxiety, alcoholism, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder. Eating disorders which are co-occurring can exacerbate other symptoms.

Symptoms Of Bulimia Nervosa

Symptoms of bulimia are not always obvious because the eating disorder can be so well hidden. When bulimia becomes a chronic issue, these are some of the symptoms which may present:

  • Decaying of the teeth or signs of gum damage, resulting from constant exposure to acids in the mouth produced by vomiting
  • Complications with digestive and waste systems due to laxative abuse
  • Heart palpitations and heart damage issues due to malnourishment and dehydration
  • Getting up to go to the bathroom before or after meals
  • Taking “supplements” before or after meals
  • Commentary about having to go to the gym, or face negative consequences due to eating choices
  • Worsening mental health surrounding food, eating, and body image


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