Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by eating large amounts of food—known as binging—and then taking steps to avoid gaining weight from that food—known as purging. Most commonly, purging involves a person purposely causing themselves to vomit, but it can also include taking laxatives unnecessarily or using enemas to rid themselves of the nutrients they just put into their bodies.
Some people have non-purging bulimia, which involves binging followed by excessive exercise or not eating for an extended period of time (fasting).
While a specific cause of bulimia has not been identified, certain factors in a person’s life can trigger bulimia in that person. According to Eating Disorder Hope, some of those triggers can include:
- Stressful transitions or life changes
- History of abuse or trauma
- Negative body image
- Poor self-esteem
- Professions or activities that focus on appearance/performance
A person who has bulimia typically tries to keep their condition a secret. Some warning signs of a person who is binging and purging can include a person excusing themselves to the bathroom after eating, refusing to eat in the company of others, hoarding food in their rooms or furniture (loved ones may notice significant amounts of food missing from cabinets or the refrigerator), and eating as if they were ravenously hungry.
Bulimia is a dangerous disorder. Left untreated, bulimia can cause dehydration, acid reflux, and lacerations in the mouth, esophageal inflammation, broken blood vessels in the eyes, and major fluctuations in weight. Eventually, after prolonged binging and purging without treatment, those who suffer from bulimia may also find themselves having a low sex drive or being unable to conceive a child.
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