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Bulimia Nervosa: Just The Facts

Young people with bulimia often go for long periods of time restricting their food intake

In some cases, people with bulimia will even starve themselves. This is followed by episodes of ‘binge eating’ and then ‘purging’.

Binge eating is when someone eats a large amount of food in a short space of time, or when they feel out of control when eating. Someone will usually ‘binge’ in secret and often feel low, ashamed or guilty afterwards.

Following binge eating, someone affected by bulimia can feel anxious and will try to get rid of the food and the calories they contain by ‘purging’.  There are different ways that people ‘purge’, and this can be by vomiting, using laxatives, or doing too much exercise.

Young people affected by bulimia can quite quickly become trapped in this cycle. This pattern of behaviour is often hidden from others though, and their weight is often within a healthy range.

More than just food…

Bulimia is not just about food, it’s about feelings and emotions too and may be used to cope with stress and painful feelings. Sometimes bulimia can make its way into people’s lives when there is significant stress or emotional upset. People experiencing bulimia often have worries about their body image, shape or size, or the way they look.

The effects of bulimia

Just like anorexia, bulimia is a serious illness. This can affect both young women and young men, and has serious consequences for physical health and emotional wellbeing.

Examples of physical effects:

  • Feeling tired or having little energy
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Electrolyte imbalances- due to vomiting

Examples of psychological effects:

  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious and tense
  • Distorted perception of body shape/weight
  • Feelings of loss of control

Due to the psychological and physical effects associated with bulimia nervosa, it’s important for young people to receive treatment as early as possible. If you are concerned about yourself, a friend or family member, speak to your school nurse, GP or trusted adult.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

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