The Chief Causes and Types of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa or simply bulimia is a grave eating disorder that affects a significant proportion of the population, particularly young women, and can sometimes get fatal. An individual with bulimia tends to binge or eat gluttonously during a sitting, much more than what one would consume normally. Majority of bulimics also resort to purging or regurgitating after a round of gorging.

At a larger social level are the influences of pressure and advertisements on children and adults of what constitutes a perfect body and the ways that food, or lack thereof, may achieve that. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

Bulimic individuals usually follow the cycle of bingeing and vomiting with the sole objective of staying as slim as possible and checking weight gain. Bulimics find themselves torn apart by an irrepressible urge to eat on one hand, and on the other, an irresistible desire to purge or vomit the excess food consumed. However, there is a proportion of bulimics who exploit other ways in order to shed the excessive intake of calories, instead of purging, like dieting, starvation, and intensive workouts.

It is estimated that 0.1-0.5% of males and 1.1-4.6% of females in the US may have or have had bulimia at some point in their life.


Symptoms and Signs of Bulimia

Unlike anorexics, bulimics tend to be have a normal weight and a very few bulimic persons are obese or overweight. Bulimics, on the other hand are also more likely to indulge in substance abuse, including narcotics, banned prescription drugs, tranquilizers, and alcohol. A typical bulimic might be difficult to identify as the usual signs or symptoms associated with the eating disorder are barely noticeable.

Physical signs generally include:

  • Fluctuating body weight
  • Acute dehydration
  • Malnutrition causing one to remain in poor health
  • GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease)
  • Irregularity in menstruation
  • Teeth damage and sore throat owing to acid refluxes

And the behavioral symptoms entail:

  • Gorging
  • Eating all by oneself
  • Stashing food in unlikely places
  • Visiting the bathroom right after bingeing
  • Being finicky about gaining weight
  • Starving or dieting intensively followed by binge eating and vice versa

Bulimics are in the habit of taking emetics and laxatives that stimulate purging urges and usually keep such medications hidden. These persons also are adversely affected by sudden mood swings, and often diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorder. A bulimic might feel inhibited to talk about his or her eating disorder despite being acutely aware of the same.

Newsflash: purging food was discovered eons ago by patients suffering from eating disorders—no surgical procedure required. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.

Causes of Bulimia

The causes behind bulimia nervosa that have not yet been traced may help diagnosticians and medical scientists to work out an effective treatment plan. However, most dieticians, nutritionists, and medical professionals are of the opinion that a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral or temperamental factors are responsible for causing bulimia. Bulimics subjecting themselves to bingeing followed by a phase of purging is usually a means of dealing with emotional and psychological stress.

Bulimia patients are constantly troubled by feelings, usually bordering on irrationality that they are putting on undue weight and becoming obese. Consequently, they develop a sort of love-hate relationship with everything related to obesity including food. What starts as a simple way for managing emotional stress soon burgeons into an infatuation that bulimics find difficult to control.

A bulimic often indulges in self-destructive behavior leading to chronic psychological issues including anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression.

Oftentimes, symptoms and behaviors are rationalized and minimized by the person who engages in them. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

Risk Factors

Researchers and scientists are yet to pin down a single, palpable risk factor that might cause an outbreak of bulimia. It is generally alleged that there could be a set of environmental, psychological, biological, behavioral, and genetic factors working in coordination. Women are more prone to exhibiting symptoms of bulimia, compared to men, mostly during puberty when they experience physical and mental changes as a result of increased hormonal secretions.

More often, an obsession to emulate the dietary styles of celebrities, results in the young female being diagnosed with bulimia.



 The treatment procedure or plan for breaking the destructive cycle of binging and purging is protracted, lasting for nothing less than 4-6 months. A judicious blend of nutritional counseling, cognitive and behavioral therapy, medications, interpersonal therapy and the support of near and dear ones are instrumental for remitting symptoms of bulimia.