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Bulimia Nervosa


Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes and persistent compensatory behaviors such as purging, fasting, compulsive exercise, and/or the use of laxatives or diuretics to prevent weight gain.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes and persistent, inappropriate compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain. Binge-eating episodes are accompanied by feelings of self-loathing, disgust or guilt, a sense of lack of control and involve eating, in a discrete period of time, an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time, under similar circumstances. To prevent weight gain, individuals engage in extreme compensatory behaviors that may include: purging, fasting, compulsive exercise, and/or the use of laxatives or diuretics. Individuals with bulimia nervosa may appear healthy, even though they are very ill, and are unduly influenced by body weight and shape in terms of self-evaluation.

What Causes Bulimia Nervosa

Like all eating disorders, bulimia nervosa develops over a period of time due to a complicated blend of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. There is no single place to point to and despite common misconceptions, families and communities of support are not to blame. In fact, they are often recovery’s strongest ally. Many individuals have genetic predispositions to bulimia nervosa that, depending on environmental influences, may or may not be awakened over the course of their lifetime. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by bulimia nervosa.

  • Confused Physiological Processes & Altered Hunger and Satiety Signals

  • Experiencing & Surviving a Traumatic Event

  • Genetic Predispositions & Societal Pressures

  • Lack of Environmental Control & Persistent, Extreme Stress or Minority Stress

What to Look For

Being familiar with the signs and symptoms can help you champion early intervention and recovery through bulimia nervosa treatment. Watch out for elusive behaviors around mealtimes, inflammation around the mouth and knuckles, and exercise-routine rigidity. Comorbidities include: major depressive disorder (MDD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar I & II disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

  • Inappropriate Conflation of Body Weight & Shape with Self-Evaluations

  • Distorted Body Image & Seemingly Contrary Fear of Weight Gain

  • Eating Alone or in Secret & Consistent Retreats after Meals

  • Extreme Exercise-Routine Rigidity, Refusal to Hydrate & Overuse Injuries

  • Abrasions or Scars on Knuckles, Inflammation around Mouth, Burst Blood Vessels in Eyes

Risks of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa can have extreme medical and physiological consequences that may or may not resolve completely during recovery.

  • Dangerous & Lethal Electrolyte Imbalances

  • Impaired Intuitive Decision-Making & Weakened Impulse Control

  • Delayed Wound Healing & Inability to Close Eyes

  • Tooth Decay, Muscle Fatigue & Irregular Bowel Activity

  • Heart Palpitations & Low Pulse and Blood Pressure

  • In Males: Decreased Frequency of Erections & Nocturnal Emissions

  • In Females: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometrial Cancer, Amenorrhea, Difficulty Conceiving & if Pregnant, Increased Risk for Miscarriage & Postpartum Depression

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