Bulimia Nervosa is characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours. In addition, people with bulimia place an excessive emphasis on body shape or weight in their self-evaluation. This can lead to the person’s sense of self-esteem and self worth being defined by the way they look.
The reasons for developing BN will differ from person to person. Known causes include genetic predisposition and a combination of environmental, social and cultural factors.
Binge eating involves two key features:
Compensatory behaviours are used as a way of trying to control weight after binge eating episodes. They include:
A person with BN can become lost in a dangerous cycle of eating out of control and attempts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and disgust. These behaviours can become more compulsive and uncontrollable over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting and body image.
These behaviours are often concealed and people with Bulimia can go to great lengths to keep their eating and exercise habits secret. As a result, Bulimia can often go undetected for a long period of time.
Many people with BN experience weight fluctuations and do not lose weight; they can remain in the normal weight range, be slightly underweight, or may even gain weight.
Having awareness about BN and its warning signs and symptoms can make a marked difference to the severity and duration of the illness. Seeking help at the first warning sign is much more effective than waiting until the illness is in full swing. If you or someone you know is exhibiting some or a combination of these signs it is vital to seek help and support as soon as possible.
The warning signs of BN can be physical, psychological and behavioural. It is possible for someone with BN to display a combination of these symptoms.
Find out more about the warning signs.
The risks associated with BN are severe. People with BN may experience:
Therapies to be considered for the treatment of BN include:
Antidepressants (specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; e.g. SSRI) may also be prescribed for someone who is suffering from BN.
Find out more about specific treatment approaches.
Yes. It is possible to recover from BN, even if you have been living with the illness for many years. The path to recovery can be very challenging. People with BN can become entangled in a vicious cycle of eating and exercise behaviours that can impact their ability to think clearly and make decisions. However, with the right team and a high level of personal commitment, recovery is an achievable goal.
Treatments for BN are available; seek help from a professional with specialised knowledge in eating disorders.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has BN, it is important to seek help immediately. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. While your GP may not be a specialist in eating disorders, they are a good ‘first base.’ A GP can provide a referral to a practitioner with specialised knowledge in health, nutrition and eating disorders.
Find help in your local area
The National Helpline provides free, confidential support for anyone.
Phone 1800 33 4673.
© Commonwealth of Australia
Also check the related topics:Eating Disorders