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Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by purging behaviors. It affects both men and women, but is more common in women. Bulimia nervosa can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences, including gastrointestinal problems, electrolyte imbalances, and depression. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment of bulimia nervosa, based on current research.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa

The most common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include binge eating followed by purging behaviors. Binge eating involves consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time, accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating. Purging behaviors are ways to compensate for binge eating and may include vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise. Other symptoms of bulimia nervosa may include:

Preoccupation with body weight and shape Secretive eating habits Feeling ashamed or guilty about eating habits Eating in private or hiding food Frequent trips to the bathroom after eating Swelling in the cheeks or jaw area due to frequent vomiting Tooth decay and gum disease Irregular menstrual cycles (in women) Low energy, fatigue, or weakness

Causes of bulimia nervosa

The exact causes of bulimia nervosa are not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors may play a role. Some factors that may contribute to the development of bulimia nervosa include:

Genetics: Studies have shown that certain genes may increase the risk of developing bulimia nervosa, although no specific gene has been identified as a cause. Environmental factors: Societal pressures to be thin, such as those found in the media and advertising, can contribute to the development of bulimia nervosa. Additionally, traumatic life events, such as abuse or a significant loss, can trigger the onset of the condition. Psychological factors: Individuals with bulimia nervosa often have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. They may also have low self-esteem and a need for control.

Treatment of bulimia nervosa

Treatment for bulimia nervosa typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medical management, and nutritional counseling. The primary goal of treatment is to stop the cycle of binge eating and purging behaviors and address any underlying psychological issues. Some common forms of psychotherapy used to treat bulimia nervosa include:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This form of therapy helps individuals change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to bulimia nervosa. Interpersonal psychotherapy: This form of therapy focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and reducing the impact of negative life events. Dialectical behavior therapy: This form of therapy focuses on developing skills to regulate emotions and manage stress. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to treat underlying mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety.


Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can have significant physical and psychological consequences. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for bulimia nervosa is essential for early detection and effective management of the condition. Research in this field continues to shed light on the complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors that contribute to bulimia nervosa, as well as the most effective treatment approaches.


  • National Institute of Mental Health. (2021). Eating disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml Le Grange, D., & Lock, J. (2015). Bulimia nervosa: a review of effective treatment options. Paediatrics and International Child Health, 35(3), 175-180. doi: 10.1179/2046905515Y.0000000003 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing. Smink, F. R., van Hoeken, D., & Hoek, H. W. (2012). Epidemiology of eating disorders: incidence, prevalence and mortality rates. Current Psychiatry Reports, 14(4), 406-414. doi: 10.1007/s11920-012-0282-y Treasure, J., Claudino, A. M., & Zucker, N. (2010). Eating disorders. Lancet, 375(9714), 583-593. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61748-7