Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa (bulimia) is known as the binge-purge eating disorder. A person with bulimia binges by eating a large amount of food in a short time, over a couple of hours, and then purges by vomiting, overexercising, or misusing laxatives, diuretics, or other medicines.

A person with bulimia may worry all the time about his or her body shape and size and have poor self-esteem. Bulimia can be hard to detect because the person often does not have obvious symptoms and may be average in weight. People who have eating disorders frequently hide their eating habits or deny that they have a problem.

The cause of bulimia is not clear, but it may be related to physical, psychological, cultural, and social factors. Bulimia is most common in young women, although older women, teenage boys, and men also can develop it. It is often a long-term problem, and it may start at a young age and carry on into adult life. Over time, bulimia can cause serious health problems. With treatment, many people can stop the binge-purge cycle.

Last Updated: September 16, 2009

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & W. Stewart Agras, MD - Psychiatry

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