Bulimia, eating disorders

What is it?

People with bulimia nervosa typically eat a large amount of food (compulsive overeating or bulimic episodes) and then use compensatory methods, such as self-induced vomiting, laxatives and/or diuretics and the practice of excessive exercise, as a way to prevent weight gain for exaggerated fear of getting fat. Unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia does not cause the individual to lose weight; therefore physicans and family members have difficulty detecting the problem. Typically, the disease occurs more frequently in younger women, although it may occur, more rarely, in men and older women.

What does one feel?

Compulsive overeating
self-induced vomits and use of laxatives and diuretics to prevent weight gain.
Excessive food ingestion without proportional body weight increase
secretive eating patterns or hiding from others

Medical complications

Sore throat (inflammation of the lining of the esophagus because of the effects of vomitus)
Swollen and painful face (inflammation of the salivary glands)
dental cavities.
Electrolytic Imbalance
bleed vomiting
secretive eating patterns or hiding from others
cramps and muscular pain


Like anorexia, bulimia nervosa is a syndrome multidetermined by a combination of biological, psychological, familiar and cultural factors. Cultural emphasis on physical appearance may play a major role. Also, family problems, low self-esteem and identity conflicts are factors involved in triggering these conditions.

How does it develop?

Oftentimes, it takes long to realize that someone suffers from bulimia nervosa. The main feature is food-binge episodes, accompanied by a sense of loss of control overt the action and, sometimes, carried out secretively. Behaviours aiming at weight control include: fasting, self-induced vomits, use of laxatives, enemas, diuretics and overexercising. The diagnosis of bulimia nervosa requires episodes with a minimum frequency of twice a week for, at least, three months. These overeating episodes, followed by compensatory methods may remain hidden from the family for a long time.

Bulimia nervosa affects older female adolescents, about 17 years old. People with bulimia are ashamed of their symptoms and, therefore, avoid eating in public, as well as places such as beaches and swimming pools, where they need to expose their bodies. As the condition develops, these people are only concerned about food, weight and body shape-related issues.

How is it treated?

The muldicisplinary approach is the most adequate in treating bulimia nervosa, and includes individual, or group, psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and nutritional approach delivered at ambulatory care level.

The cognitive behavior techniques have proved effective

Antidepressant medication has also proved effective in controling bulimic episodes.

The nutritional approach aims to establish healthier eating habits, eliminatingthe 'binge-purge-fast' cycle.

Family counseling and/or therapy is required, since the family plays a very critical role in the patient's recovery.

How is it prevented?

Putting less emphasis on physical appearance, both on the cultural and familiar aspects, may occasionally decrease the incidence of these conditions. It is important to provide information concerning the risks of strict diets for achieving the 'ideal' silhouette, since they play a fundamental role in triggering eating disorders.