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Bulimia: All You Need To Know About This Eating Disorder

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Dec 12, 2022

Bulimia: All You Need To Know About This Eating Disorder

Studies have found that low self-esteem can lead to eating disorders such as bulimia. Although, it is worth noting that eating disorders can be caused by internal factors, too.

Today, we are constantly bombarded with images that tempt us to compare ourselves with others. Log on to Facebook and you see your co-worker celebrating their weight loss journey. Switch to the Instagram app and your feed is full of images of models and celebrities with the perfect bodies.

The world today makes it too easy to feel bad about ourselves. This can have a negative effect on our self-esteem and makes us hyper-aware of our insecurities. Being too preoccupied with our weight or how we look can be dangerous, as these kinds of behaviors can lead to eating disorders. 

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are illnesses that greatly impact the way a person eats. These disorders are characterized by eating behaviors that can negatively impact your health and how you go about your day to day life. More so, it becomes an illness/ disorder when it impairs a person’s health and or psychosocial functioning.

It’s perfectly normal to be concerned about what you eat, especially if you’re doing this out of concern for your health. However, people with eating disorders take eating behaviors to an extreme. Eating disorders, if left untreated, may have profound negative effects on a person’s health. 

Usually, eating disorders are accompanied by other mental health issues like anxiety, depression, trauma, or drug and alcohol abuse.

And data has shown that the most common sufferers of eating disorders are women between the ages of 12-35.

A widely-held belief is that eating disorders are “lifestyle choices.” However, people suffering from eating disorders are constantly at war with their own minds and bodies. These disorders are actual illnesses that should be treated as such. 

Understanding the roots of these eating disorders and what they do to the body can help eliminate the stigma attached to it. Learning more about the common eating disorders will also give you knowledge whether or not you or someone you know might need help.

This article will provide you with an in-depth look at Bulimia, and how this eating disorder can be extremely harmful to a person’s health.

The Characteristics of Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa or bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by “binge eating” and “purging”. If you’re living with bulimia, you may find yourself secretly binge eating a large amount of food.

After this, you may start to feel extremely conscious about what you eat. And thus, you will “purge” your body of the food you just ate. 

For sufferers of bulimia, purging can be done in a variety of ways. A bulimic person may self-induce vomiting, intake too many laxatives, abuse drinks or supplements that encourage weight loss, or misuse enemas to purge the food that they binged. 

One thing to take note of is that not all people who suffer from bulimia nervosa engage in “purging.” Some people who suffer from it make up for the food they binge by fasting, working out too much, or doing a “crash diet.” This is why not all people who suffer bulimia are underweight. Some will be overweight, and some might even have normal body weight.

Researchers have difficulty in coming up with an exact number of people who suffer from this disorder, because most don’t feel comfortable seeking help.

Despite this, statistics have shown that men also suffer from bulimia nervosa.

A study conducted in 2007 found that 1.5% of women and 0.5% of men in the United States suffered bulimia in their lifetime.

What Are The Symptoms of Bulimia?

When a person suffers from bulimia, they often become extremely ashamed of their behavior.

Because of this, many bulimics will go out of their way to hide what they’re going through. Fear and anxiety about being caught binge eating are just a few of the things only bulimics know and understand. 

If you suffer from bulimia nervosa, you might experience the following:

  • Eating until you feel physically sick, or feeling like you have no control over how much you eat.
  • Eating an abnormally large amount of food in one sitting.
  • Feeling the need that you have to keep your eating behavior a secret.
  • Hiding food wrappers due to the fear of being caught eating.
  • Forcing yourself to exercise after eating a large amount of food, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.
  • Forcing yourself to vomit after eating.
  • Fearing the thought of gaining weight.

What you should watch out for

For worse cases, patients often develop particular signs and symptoms; you can see outright most of these when you look at the patient.

Some physical symptoms of bulimia are the following:

  • Russel’s sign: Some people who suffer bulimia might develop ‘Russell’s sign’ which are sores on the knuckles that can form by self-induced vomiting.
  • Tooth Decay: Repeated vomiting can damage the tooth enamel because of the acidity of the stomach’s juices.
  • Bulimia face or bulimia cheeks: Swelling of the cheeks may be a sign of dehydration caused by vomiting. 

Additionally, if you answer ‘yes’ to more than one of these questions you might be struggling with your relationship with food:

  • Are you preoccupied with how you look and how much you weigh?
  • Are you afraid that you can’t stop once you start eating?
  • Do you feel ashamed whenever you eat?
  • Do you feel the need to vomit or take laxatives whenever you eat?

If you suspect that one of your friends or loved ones is suffering from bulimia, don’t confront them. Speak to them about your concern somewhere private and try to be calm.

Don’t force them to seek professional help, but do let them know that you’re there to offer support.

How To Improve Your Relationship With Food

If you’re worried about developing an eating disorder, there are a few things you can do to improve your relationship with food. 

  1. Don’t crash diet. Unless you have a health problem or need to lose weight, try diets which can lead to ‘rules’ that might restrict your eating behavior. 
  2. Follow a schedule. Eating three meals a day is important to maintain a healthy body. Skipping meals can lead to preoccupation with food and your weight. Eat regularly, or whenever you’re hungry.

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that can compel a person to binge eat and purge. This cycle can be harmful for a person’s overall health and well-being. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from it, it’s best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jezreel Esguerra, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Dec 12, 2022

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