How Is Anxiety Linked To Bulimia?

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and compensatory ‘purging’ behaviours to control weight gain. The need to purge food, and any excess calories, straight after a binge heightens anxiety, and drives purging behaviour such as vomitting, laxative use and excessive and compulsive exercise.

Individuals with bulimia tend to unduly associate their self-worth with their weight and shape. When eating and purging behaviours are chaotic, this creates a distorted and negative perception of body image, accompanied by strong feelings of anxiety.

Anxiety disorders often arise early in life during childhood and adolescence, shaped by relationships and situations, and are connected to feelings of fear inside of us. Anxiety will often be present before the development of an eating disorder, with bulimia seen as a way of coping and feeling better about weight, body image and self-worth.


It does not take long to get trapped in the cycle of bingeing and purging behaviours, where brain chemistry becomes imbalanced. This leads to string cravings and urges to eat, and high levels of anxiety.

What Happens In Our Brain When We Binge?

Bulimia may serve as a coping mechanism to deal with feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is increased prior to a binge and decreases during a binge. When individuals with bulimia eat, certain neurotransmitters linked to positive emotions, known as serotonin and dopamine, become elevated. Binge eating decreases anxiety in the short term and generates positive feelings associated with high levels of these neurotransmitters. However, the anxiety reappears after a binge episode commonly together with feelings of guilt and shame. Individuals with bulimia will then engage in purging behaviours, such as vomiting or excessive exercise, in order to compensate for the binge and control their weight.

People usually report that anxiety becomes worse after a binge episode, hence reinforcing the cycle of binging and purging behaviours.

Targeted Bulimia Help

If you are struggling with both anxiety and bulimia, it is important that you receive treatment focusing on both areas. At WeightMatters we offer interventions to help you manage anxiety and improve your relationship with food.

Our expert team of counsellors and psychotherapists will work with your headspace to help you understand deeper themes that might be maintaining your anxiety. Managing your thoughts and taking control of your mind is a skill you can learn.

We will work with you to balance your nutrition. This will stabilise your physiology, and thereby reduce the physiological symptoms of anxiety, and your urge to binge and purge.

We will also help you find new ways to identify and soothe your feelings, and teach you to how to manage stress, without turning to food.