Bulimia nervosa: causes, symptoms and treatment


Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia, as it is popularly known, is an eating disorder that is characterized by frequent episodes of excessive food intake in a short space of time.

The person suffering from bulimia maintains a constant and excessive concern for the control of body weight and image. When he perceives that his image and weight does not correspond with what he considers his ideal weight, he sets in motion methods to control weight gain.

The person with bulimia nervosa has a totally distorted image of their body. This person is perceived as fat even though he has a normal or even below average weight for his size and age.

She has permanent feelings of body dissatisfaction, fear of getting fat, is not able to control her impulses with food and can not resist the desire to binge.

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa

The most characteristic symptoms of this disorder are the following:

  • Distortion of your body image.
  • Binge eating and inordinate intake of food in a short space of time.
  • Excessive concern for your figure and fear of weight gain.
  • Use of alternative mechanisms for weight control such as diuretics, laxatives, excessive exercise, hypocaloric diets, etc.
  • Physical alterations such as digestive problems, headaches, dental problems, irregular menstruation, hair loss.
  • Psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression or low self-esteem.


Other symptoms associated with bulimia nervosa are:

  • Malnutrition and anemia.
  • Digestive disorders due to binge eating or excessive use of laxatives that cause a high risk of severe malnutrition.
  • Chemical alterations in the blood, which manifest with low sodium or potassium levels.
  • Or bone decalcification due to lack of calcium.

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Causes and risk factors

It is not known exactly what the etiology of bulimia nervosa is. In general, experts agree that there are many factors that converge in the development of eating disorders. Among these factors we can point out:

  • Emotional health
  • Biology.
  • Social expectations
  • Another question.


Among the factors the most significant risk that increases in the risk of bulimia nervosa can point out the following:

  • Female sex: women and adolescents are more likely to suffer from this eating disorder. Although it is true that in recent years the number of males suffering from this disease has increased.
  • Age: it is more frequent in post-adolescence or in the first years of adulthood.
  • Genetics: people with siblings, parents or children with an eating disorder are more likely to also have an eating disorder.
  • Psycho-emotional problems: psychological and emotional problems, such as anxiety or low self-esteem, can contribute to eating disorders.
  • Social pressure: the media, such as television and fashion magazines, often show a lot of models and actors too thin. These images equal thinness with success and popularity.
  • Other pressures of sports, work, academic or artistic tasks: athletes, actors, dancers, and models have a higher risk of suffering from these disorders.

How to prevent bulimia nervosa?

The prevention of bulimia should be carried out from a multidisciplinary approach. This is due to the large number and different risk factors.

The specialists in this type of disorders emphasize that it is necessary to work together from different spaces: the social, family and school environment.

  • In social prevention, it is important to sensitize the population at risk (adolescents and young people) about the disease, its symptoms and how to prevent it.


In addition, it is important to work with people who become idols of young people as athletes, actors and actresses, designers, presenters, etc. to collaborate and reduce the messages they send about weight loss in a non-responsible and deceptive way.

  • At the family level, it will be key to insist that adolescents be observed and to ensure that a balanced diet is followed. In this way, it helps to avoid obsession and body worship.

It is also important to avoid situations of overprotection or rejection since they create dependency and low self-esteem that nothing contributes to overcoming the disorder.


At the school level, children must be educated in food and nutrition. In addition, one must educate in personal and emotional development. Promoting learning in social skills and high self-esteem.

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