Bulimia Nervosa – Symptoms, Treatment And Prognosis

Bulimia Nervosa is more often called just Bulimia and is an extremely serious eating disorder that can be deadly or life threatening if not treated.  Bulimia is thought of as a throwing up disorder where people who are afflicted with it are known to eat large amounts of food or binge on food and then purge the food later from their body. 

It involves getting rid of any extra calories so someone with Bulimia may force themselves to throw up in private or participate in excessive amounts of exercise to purge the food intake.

There are two main types of Bulimia Nervosa, but many times they can overlap and people rarely fall in just one of the categories.  The main idea of the name of Bulimia Nervosa is purging or not letting the body get all the calories that it should be receiving.

  • Purging Bulimia.  This is where the individual purges the food from their body by self induced vomiting or by the excessive use of things like laxatives or enemas to eliminate any extra calories.
  • Nonpurging Bulimia.  With this form of Bulimia, the individual doesn’t purge their body but rather restricts the amount of calories coming in by going on an extremely strict diet or by participating in an extreme amount of time spent exercising.

Bulimia Nervosa is thought to be both a physical disorder with the body and one that deals with mental image.  Because it has a lot to do with how one perceives their body and their self image, it can be hard to decipher at first as a medical condition.

Symptoms – Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa can affect almost anyone since it is a self-afflicted condition.  According to AllPsych Online, Bulimia stems in individuals who are raised in an environment that is not very nurturing.  A lot of people who have been sexually abused in some banner seem to deal with Bulimia. 

In addition where there are fraternal twins or a history of anorexia (another eating disorder) in the family, it increases the likelihood of Bulimia occurring.  For this reason, many psychologists and doctors now feel like there may be a biological connection to Bulimia but it hasn’t been completely proven in modern day science.

There are both physiological and psychological symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa.  Some of the physiological symptoms are puffiness in the cheeks or broken vessels under the eyes due to excessive throwing up.  A person suffering with Bulimia can be overweight, underweight or even normal weight but experience large amounts of weight loss or weight gain. 

The individual may complain of a sore throat or be extremely fatigued or tired from the lack of nutrients staying in the body.  Tooth decay is commonly seen in those that are dealing with Bulimia due to the amount of throwing up that is usually involved in this condition.

Some of the behaviors of those suffering from Bulimia can clue others into the condition.  One behavior is refusing to eat food, eating food in secret or otherwise just hiding that food is being consumed at all.  The individual may disappear to the bathroom after eating to purge their food or express a lot of self disgust due to the food that was consumed. 

Diet pills may be used and the individual may want to stick with a very strict diet or exercise schedule without deviation.  Shoplifting of food or diet pills is sometimes seen in those suffering with Bulimia.  In addition, the person may appear like they are out of control or that their value as a person is judged solely by their weight and may be really critical of themselves.


There are a wide range of treatment options of Bulimia Nervosa but the main focus is on restoring an individual back to their normal health and then figuring out the underlying mental reasons for the condition occurring and treating that portion of the problem.  

If the Bulimia is severe enough, a patient might have to undergo a short hospital stay in order to get their health back on track or have to stay in a treatment center to get the help that they need or to see if medication can help at all. 

Most often the treatment for Bulimia is done on an outpatient basis and through the help of a combination of medical professionals, group and individual counseling sessions, support groups, nutritionist, or family therapy.  

Bulimia treatment is done in a progressive manner and not something that is treated in a day and it is advisable that it is treated in the earlier stages before doing extensive damage to the body. The most important part for the treatment is to make sure the psychological aspect is treated so that there is an understanding of how to prevent it from becoming a problem again.  

Since so much of the condition is psychological and how the person values themselves and their self worth, counseling is the best course of action and can be done in a variety of ways.  In addition, a good strong support group will help a person recover from Bulimia Nervosa.


Bulimia Nervosa is curable but is a condition that is best if it is caught or detected early.  Most people with Bulimia will fully recover after receiving treatment for their health and mind.

It can be a life threatening condition since the lack of proper nutrients can cause damage to internal organs or result in a heart attack from the excessive exercise and strain on the heart. Treatment is much harder though if an individual suffers from another mental disorder such as obsessive compulsive disorder or any mood or personality disorder. 

But again the treatment of Bulimia is the most important part of a positive prognosis since mental conditions can be treated with the proper psychological and medical help. If one suspects that a friend or family memory is suffering from Bulimia Nervosa, it is best if they encourage the person to get help and treatment for this potentially life-threatening condition.

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