What is bulimia nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder that involves eating a large amount of food and then trying to ‘get rid’ of the calories consumed. There are signs that indicate someone might have bulimia nervosa, which can have serious physical consequences. As bulimia nervosa can have a serious impact on your health, it’s important to find out what you can do to get help.
This can help if:
you’re very critical of your own body
you feel out of control around food
you don’t like eating around other people
after you’ve eaten, you try to rid your body of the food
you’re worried a friend or family member might have bulimia.
One characteristic of bulimia nervosa is eating a large amount of food and feeling out of control while doing so (bingeing), followed by behaviours aimed at ‘getting rid’ of the calories consumed (purging). Purging might include vomiting, taking laxatives or exercising. For someone with bulimia nervosa, food, calories, exercise, weight and appearance often become their main focus, making it difficult to think about much else.
While someone who regularly binges and purges may be obsessed with controlling their weight and appearance, the underlying reasons for this behaviour are usually deeper. The behaviour may be a way of processing overwhelming feelings of anger, depression, stress or sadness.
Some of the common signs of bulimia nervosa are:
eating unusually large amounts of food while feeling a sense of loss of control
being secretive about what you eat and when
visiting the bathroom after eating
being very critical of yourself
feeling moody and/or depressed
feeling tired all the time
sensitive or yellowing teeth (caused from vomiting and stomach acid).
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with someone you trust, such as a family member, teacher, psychologist or doctor.
Physical effects of bulimia
Some of the physical effects of bulimia nervosa may include:
inflamed, sore throat
inflammation of the oesophagus
Weight loss may be another effect of bulimia. However, people with bulimia may be slightly underweight, within a healthy weight range, or even overweight, so the symptoms and effects listed above are important to look at altogether.
What to do if this sounds like you
Many people with eating disorders feel that they’re not ‘sick enough’ or ‘thin enough’ to need help. Even if you’re not sure whether or not you have a diagnosable eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa, it’s important that you talk to someone. Making yourself vomit can put you at risk of serious medical complications regardless of how much you weigh.
It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. It can help you work out what's going on and provide personalised support recommendations. Try the ReachOut NextStep tool to learn about the support options available for you.