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What is bulimia nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder and mental health condition. People who have bulimia try to control their weight by binge eating, which is eating a lot of food very quickly. This often makes them feel guilty and bad about themselves which leads them to purging (getting rid of the food by making themselves sick or using laxatives medicines, tablets or herbal remedies that can make you go to the toilet a lot). People with bulimia can also have periods of time where they starve themselves.

As with other eating disorders, bulimia nervosa can be associated with:
Learn more about the causes of bulimia nervosa.

Binge eating and purging
Eating disorders are often associated with an abnormal attitude towards food or body image.

Everyone has their own eating habits – for example, people with a food intolerance need to avoid eating certain foods to stay healthy. However, people suffering from eating disorders tend to use their eating habits and behaviours to cope with emotional distress, and often have an abnormal or unrealistic fear of food, calories and being fat.

Because of this fear, people with bulimia nervosa can restrict their food intake. This results in periods of excessive eating and loss of control (binge eating), after which they make themselves vomit or use laxatives (purging). They purge themselves because they fear the binging will cause them to gain weight, and usually feel guilty and ashamed of their behaviour. This is why these behaviours are usually done in secret.
Such binge-purge cycles can be triggered by hunger or stress, or are a way to cope with emotional anxiety.

Warning signs
Signs of bulimia nervosa include an obsessive attitude towards food and eating, an overcritical attitude to their weight and shape, and frequent visits to the bathroom after eating, after which the person might appear flushed and have scarred knuckles (from forcing fingers down the throat to bring on vomiting).
Read more about the symptoms and warning signs of bulimia.
Bulimia can eventually lead to physical problems associated with poor nutrient intake, excessive vomiting or overuse of laxatives. Read more about these complications of bulimia. This can be serious and if you are concerned or someone else is concerned about you, you must consult a GP immediately.

How can we help you?
We provide services for adults with eating disorders in adults eating disorder service in Knowsley and adults eating disorders service in St Helens, and for children and young people age eight to 18 in BoltonHaltonKnowsleySt HelensWarrington and Wigan.
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