What is Bulimia: symptoms, causes, treatment, cure and more

Eating disorders cause great damage to the patient’s life.

In addition to the risks and damage to the organism, there are also the impacts on the psychological, as conditions such as bulimia bring great emotional suffering.

This can harm social and professional life as well. But the condition has treatment!

What is Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that generates a very strong compulsion to eat a lot of food – usually very caloric. Then, she is overcome with a feeling of regret or fear of gaining weight, making her resort to means of eliminating what has been ingested. 

Among these means, the most common are the induction of vomiting, the consumption of laxatives and diuretics or excessive exercise.

The disease can be cataloged in two different ways:

  • Bulimia with purgation: The person regularly self-induces vomiting or misuses laxatives, diuretics or enemas after compulsive eating.
  • Bulimia without purging: Use of other methods to keep yourself free of calories and avoid weight gain, such as fasting, strict diet or excessive exercise.

In the International Classification of Diseases – ICD-10, bulimia is listed under the code F50 – eating disorders.

What are the causes of bulimia?

The disease does not yet have an exact cause, but because it is an eating disorder, many factors are involved in the practice of instantaneous calorie elimination. 

As mentioned, the influence of the media on people counts a lot in this process.

The cult of the body is still widely practiced by several people, especially with contempt for people who are overweight, which is also propagated through different means. 

This, in conjunction with depression or low self-esteem, can trigger anxiety attacks in someone, making them look for extreme ways to lose weight quickly, while seeking a certain type of comfort in food.

Risk factors

More than one factor can cause bulimia in someone: genetic, psychological, traumatic, family, social and cultural factors. Below, we list the factors that can most easily trigger the disorder in someone. See what they are:

  • Female sex: Adolescents and young adults are more likely to have bulimia – which does not exclude men from also developing the disease.
  • Genetics: It is not something that is proven, but it is assumed that people with first-degree relatives with some type of eating disorder may be more likely to develop it as well.
  • Psychological and emotional problems : People with psychological disorders or low self-esteem can more easily develop bulimia. Triggers such as stress, restrictive diet, boredom or poor self-image of the body make the person look for ways to feel better with his own image and / or life.
  • Media and social pressure : Television or fashion magazines have a universal beauty standard that makes many people (mostly girls) associate thinness with success and popularity.
  • Sports, work or artistic pressure : Athletes and professionals in the artistic environment in general, such as actors and dancers, are at greater risk of developing eating disorders. Coaches or parents can unwittingly encourage these people to lose weight and thus maintain a low weight.

What are the symptoms of bulimia?

Often, the symptoms of a bulimic person are not seen by others. This happens because the person hides – for himself and for others – that he has the disorder in question. However, if more attention is paid, some signs can be identified in it.

Most visible signs

  • Do not eat in front of other people;
  • Even with the ideal weight, the person acts as if he were on a diet, controlling all the calories he consumes and revealing his excessive fear of gaining weight;
  • You exercise compulsively and you feel guilty when you don’t;
  • Hides the appearance, wearing looser clothes;
  • It moves away from people, and can become suspicious and aggressive;
  • It presents symptoms of malnutrition, such as: dizziness, fainting, fatigue, sleep or insomnia and swelling in the body;
  • Sudden weight loss.

Less visible signs

  • Vomiting after meals: the person can go to the bathroom right after eating and remains there for a long time.
  • Use of laxatives and diuretics: some signs may be presented due to this practice, such as complaints of abdominal cramps, anal inflammation or intestinal uncontrolled.

How is the diagnosis made?

For the diagnosis of bulimia, the doctor to be consulted is the general practitioner. Once at the appointment, he will be able to ask you a few questions to help you make an accurate diagnosis, such as:

  • How long has this concern about weight been?
  • Do you practice physical exercises?
  • How many times a day do you eat?
  • What means are used for weight loss?

Asked the questions, the specialist may also perform some physical exams on the patient, which may show the following signs:

  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Eye bags that look like “looking at the cheeks”;
  • Rashes and pimples (acne);
  • Small cuts and calluses on the fingers, due to self-induced vomiting.

If the doctor is still unsure of the patient’s condition, he may order blood, urine and stool tests to find out if there are signs of electrolyte imbalance or dehydration.

What is the treatment for bulimia?

As already mentioned, many people who suffer from bulimia do not want to show this problem to others. However, for the disease to be treated, it is necessary that the patient himself admits to himself that he needs help. 

After that, nutritional and psychological treatments are done together in order to reverse the set of factors that triggered the disease.

Bulimia recovery steps

  1. Admit that you have a problem: The first step in treating bulimia is to admit that your relationship with food is distorted and out of control.
  2. Talk to someone: At first glance, talking to someone about the situation can seem difficult. However, this step is essential for recovery, not least because it makes you realize that you are not alone in this battle.
  3. Keep your distance from people, places or activities that trigger the temptation to binge or purge: This step can be tricky at first, but you need to stay away from triggers that will trigger the symptoms that bulimia has as characteristics.
  4. Seek professional help: Professional advice and support, regardless of the area, is very important for you to fully recover your health.

Seeking professional help

It is not uncommon to find people who have bulimia and who also have depression . In this case, it is important that psychological and psychiatric follow-up is carried out throughout the course of the treatment – this depends on the severity of the bulimia, as well as the person’s response to the treatments.

Some examples of how to treat this disease are:

  • Support groups;
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy + nutritional therapy;
  • Use of antidepressants such as Daforin and Fluoxetine when the clinical picture is in a serious condition.

Attention! 

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Living together: how to control eating disorders?

For the treatment to be effective, it is necessary to consider the following recommendations:

  • Follow a healthy diet, properly guided by a specialist;
  • Get a lot of information about bulimia, frequent the existing support groups and know the complications that can be caused by the disease;
  • Seek medical help again if you have a relapse;
  • Be patient with yourself;
  • Exercise, but with caution.

Are there complications?

Bulimia is a dangerous disease and can lead to serious consequences when not properly treated:

  • Permanent damage to the esophagus (due to gastric acid generated as a result of vomiting);
  • Dehydration – which can subsequently cause kidney failure;
  • Heart problems;
  • Severe dental caries;
  • Absence or irregularity of menstruation;
  • Sore throat;
  • Cold;
  • Anxiety and depression;
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs;
  • Suicide.

Prevention and care for eating disorders

There are still no fully effective ways to prevent bulimia, but avoiding contact with some risk factors already helps in the process. You can do this through:

  • Always cultivate the idea of ​​a healthy body, regardless of the silhouette or the weight of your body;
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician, as he is a specialist, they can tell from an early age if there is any indication that the child is having eating disorders;
  • Talk to a doctor if you know that a close family member of yours has had or has any type of eating disorder.

Common questions

How long does treatment for bulimia last?

There is no standard time. Some experts consider that eating disorder is a condition that needs treatment for the rest of your life. This does not mean that the use of drugs is necessary forever or that there will never be any improvement.

But it means that at some point, the person will improve, stop the vomiting crises or compensate for food, and may even be emotionally very well. 

But like other psychological disorders, bulimia can again be triggered by several external factors. 

Therefore, monitoring is always constant, preventing future relapses.

Is diet the cause of bulimia?

It is not a direct relationship, but it can be one of the triggering factors when the person is already predisposed.

In general, it is rigid and restricted diets that exacerbate the risks. Therefore, dietary changes without medical or nutritional guidance can have major impacts on physical and psychological health.

What is bulimic crisis?

It is called bulimic crisis when the patient enters periods of binge eating followed by compensation. These episodes can be punctual and widely spaced, but they can also be daily – occurring more than 1 large food intake per day.

What is the best treatment for bulimia?

The best treatment is psychological counseling, which may or may not be associated with the use of medications. The line of approach, frequency and use of medicines depend on professional assessment. Therefore, there is no single treatment.

What is the best medicine for bulimia?

There are cases in which it is necessary to resort to medication, be it to relieve depressive or anxious conditions or to alleviate binge attacks.

Therefore, there is no medication for bulimia, but for the associated symptoms.

If I get treatment, will I get fat?

No. The treatment aims to eliminate bouts of compulsion, image distortion and the patient’s suffering. In the course of therapy, it is possible that there will be weight recovery, when the person is very thin, or maintenance of it.


Reconciling these tips with a good nutritional diet in your day to day, the chances of you or someone developing Bulimia are already greatly reduced. Share this article with friends and help us spread this information!

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