Bulimia (boo-LEE-me-uh) nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — eating large amounts of food — and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. For example, someone with bulimia may force vomiting or engage in excessive exercise. Sometimes people purge after eating only a small snack or a normal-size meal.
Bulimia can be categorized in two ways:
- Purging bulimia. You regularly self-induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, diuretics or enemas after bingeing.
- Nonpurging bulimia. You use other methods to rid yourself of calories and prevent weight gain, such as fasting, strict dieting or excessive exercise.
- Bulimia signs and symptoms may include:
- Being preoccupied with your body shape and weight
- Living in fear of gaining weight
- Feeling that you can’t control your eating behavior
- Eating until the point of discomfort or pain
- Eating much more food in a binge episode than in a normal meal or snack
- Forcing yourself to vomit or exercise too much to keep from gaining weight after bingeing
- Misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating
- Restricting calories or avoiding certain foods between binges
- Using dietary supplements or herbal products excessively for weight loss
- Bulimia may cause numerous serious and even life-threatening complications. Possible complications include:
- Dehydration, which can lead to major medical problems, such as kidney failure
- Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat or heart failure
- Severe tooth decay and gum disease
- Absent or irregular periods in females
- Digestive problems, and possibly a dependence on laxatives to have bowel movements
- Anxiety and depression
- Misuse of alcohol or drugs
- Mayo Clinic
- Understanding Bulimia Nervosa
- Eating disorders have many causes. They may be triggered by stressful life events, including a loss or trauma; relationship difficulties; physical illness; or a life change such as entering one’s teens, starting college, marriage or pregnancy.
- The eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, respectively, affect 0.5 percent and 2-3 percent of women over their lifetime. The most common age of onset is between 12-25.
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