Bulimia (buh-LEE -me-ah) nervosa, typically called bulimia, is a type of eating disorder. Someone with bulimia eats a lot of food in a short amount of time (called bingeing) and then tries to prevent weight gain by purging. Purging might be done in these ways:

making oneself throw up

taking laxatives, pills, or liquids that increase how fast food moves through your body and leads to a bowel movement (BM)

A person with bulimia may also use these ways to prevent weight gain:

exercising a lot

eating very little or not at all

taking pills to pass urine

What causes it?

Bulimia is more than just a problem with food. Purging and other behaviors to prevent weight gain are ways for people with bulimia to feel more in control of their lives and ease stress and anxiety. While there is no single known cause of bulimia, many things may have a role in its development:


There are studies being done to look at many genes, hormones, and chemicals in the brain that may have an effect on the development of, and recovery from, bulimia.


Some cultures in the U.S. have an ideal of extreme thinness. Women may define themselves on how beautiful they are.

Personal feelings.

Someone with bulimia may feel badly about herself, feel helpless, and hate the way she looks.

Stressful events or life changes.

Things like starting a new school or job, being teased, or traumatic events like rape can lead to the onset of bulimia.


The attitude of parents about appearance and diet affects their kids. Also, a person is more likely to develop bulimia if a mother or sister has it.

What are signs of bulimia?

People with bulimia may be underweight, overweight, or have a normal weight. This makes it harder to know if someone has this disorder. However, someone with bulimia may have these signs:

Uses extreme measures to lose weight

uses diet pills, or takes pills to urinate or have a bowel movement (BM)

goes to the bathroom all the time after she eats (to throw up)

exercises a lot, even during bad weather, tiredness, sickness, or injury

Shows signs of throwing up

swelling of the cheeks or jaw area

cuts and calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles

teeth that look clear

Acts differently

is depressed

doesn't see friends or participate in activities as much

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