Bulimia nervosa – an overview What is bulimia nervosa? Bulimia is a type of eating disorder where the sufferer goes through a regular cycle of bingeing and purging episodes.
Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can be fatal if left untreated. People who have bulimia nervosa routinely “binge,” consuming large amounts of food in a very short period of time, and immediately “purge,” ridding their bodies of the just-eaten food by self-inducing vomiting, taking enemas, or abusing laxatives or other medications. If left untreated, bulimia nervosa can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders, heart damage, kidney damage, injury to all parts of the digestive system, and severe dental damage. Those with bulimia nervosa are at risk for dangerous impulsive, self-destructive behaviors, such as kleptomania, self-mutilation, alcohol and/or drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity.
Bulimia nervosa typically begins during adolescence, and while it most often occurs in women, it also affects men. Individuals with the disorder usually feel acutely out of control during both their bingeing and the purging episodes and afterward suffer from intense feelings of shame, guilt, and self-loathing. Embarrassed by their behavior, they typically “binge and purge” in secret and are often successful in hiding their problem from others. Even family members and close friends may have difficulty detecting bulimia nervosa in someone they know.