Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is a condition that is characterized by the bingeing of food, followed by an immediate attempt to purge the food from the body because of a fear of gaining weight.

During the binge stage, people with bulimia will eat large amounts of food in a very short amount of time. Purging can include vomiting, the use of laxatives or diuretics, and excessive exercise.

People with bulimia may engage in a cycle of strict dieting, intense hunger, binge eating, purging to avoid gaining weight, shame and disgust, and the return to a strict diet as a result of body dissatisfaction. Characteristics of someone with bulimia nervosa include disordered perception of weight or shape, unusually obsessive eating behaviors, depression, and isolation from peers or family. People with bulimia may schedule their day around binge and purging episodes.

People with bulimia have negative attitudes towards their body and suffer with extreme body dissatisfaction. Bulimia nervosa is a disorder that can be associated with low self-esteem, alcohol misuse, depression and self-harm. People with bulimia feel ashamed of their behavior and may feel guilty, however, the fear of gaining weight perpetuates their continued disordered behavior.

Bulimia nervosa is a vicious cycle of guilt and low self worth, and it is important to get treatment and seek help.

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Living with Bulimia Nervosa

Have you experienced any of these thoughts and feelings?

You struggle daily with low self-worth which is significantly influenced by your weight and body shape. This may have led you to controlling your food intake, or implementing strict dieting rules in an attempt to manage your weight. These rigid rules create feelings of deprivation and hunger, resulting in episodes of binge eating, The bingeing can feel out of control, as eating is fast and takes place in secret.

You temporarily allow yourself the freedom to eat all the foods that have been banned, these often being high in fat and sugar. After the momentary relief and enjoyment from eating, guilt and shame may quickly descend, as you compensate through purging, (vomiting, laxatives, diuretics) or non-purging compensatory mechanisms such as starvation or over-exercise.

Although initially, this cycle is often triggered by restrictive eating or dieting, it can rapidly becomes a coping strategy for emotional distress.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

When trapped in the cycle of bulimia, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Weight fluctuating as you swing between periods of overeating and restricting
  • A constant preoccupation with thoughts about food
  • A feeling of being out of control and fearful around food
  • Feeling ashamed and eating in secret
  • After bingeing, a strong desire to compensate through either laxatives, vomiting, exercise or further restriction
  • After purging, having a compelling urge to binge again – it can feel addictive
  • Unpleasant physical symptoms such as swollen cheeks, a sore throat, acid reflux or sensitive teeth
  • Feeling very critical and unhappy with your weight and body shape

Warning Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

You may be concerned about a friend or loved one. Here are some warning signs that may suggest they are struggling with bulimia:

  • Evidence of binge eating include the disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time, and the existence of wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food
  • Evidence of purging behaviours include frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen – despite weather, fatigue, illness or injury – the need to ‘burn off’ calories taken in
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting
  • Discolouration or staining of the teeth
  • Creation of complex lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • In general, behaviours and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting and control of food are becoming primary concerns


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Bulimia Treatment

The focus of our bulimia treatment programme is to support you in developing new coping mechanisms to deal with life’s ups and downs, so you no longer need to turn to bingeing and purging as a way of coping.

We will look at the triggers that cause you to binge eat, teach you new ways to manage your emotions away from food, and support you in developing new thinking styles to deal with life in a positive and empowering way.

We will explore themes from your past that may be keeping you trapped in the cycle of bulimia, working through any unresolved feelings that may be blocking you from living life in a free and happy way.

Living with Bulimia Nervosa

  • We will work on nutritional interventions to help balance your blood and brain chemistry
  • We will show you how to break habits and create new behaviours in your life around food
  • We will help you to name, feel and manage emotions without the need to use food to cut them off
  • We will unearth thoughts, beliefs and assumptions that are keeping you stuck in your bulimia cycle, and we will support you in creating new ways of interpreting situations and feelings
  • We will support you in building greater levels of self-esteem and self-worth as you start to change the deep beliefs that shape your self-concept of who you are
  • We will examine your body image and help you to restructure how you think and feel about your body
  • We will help you to rebalance different areas of your life so you can reduce day-to-day stress, and support you in taking regular activity to help you manage your weight
  • As you achieve bulimia recovery, we will help you build a toolkit of strategies to keep you on track

Short-Term Focussed Bulimia Treatment

  • Focussed short-term therapy can help in the reduction of symptoms and offer you lots of skills, tools and tips to support you in your road to bulimia recovery.
  • Our 6-session bulimia treatment plan is designed for people on a budget who want to reduce their symptoms and feel better, or for those who have had a relapse and just want to bring some focus and structure back to their eating.
  • Suitable for people looking for bulimia recovery who want to change their behaviour, explore their feelings and update their thinking. Here are some of the things you may cover in your 6-sessions:
  • Assessment – Nutritional Balancing – Changing Behaviours
  • Exploring Emotions – Restructuring Thinking – Future Planning
  • Our short-term bulimia treatment is about building skills to support you in reducing your symptoms, so that you feel more in control of your eating

Working Deeper With Bulimia Treatment

  • For some people, bulimia nervosa may be more entrenched and symptoms more severe. Our experience tells us that longer-term therapy will be more appropriate for this presentation.
  • We will work with you to settle and calm your day-2-day behaviours and symptoms, and at the same time we will explore with you the factors that initially triggered your bulimia in the first place.
  • This deeper work allows us to tackle the limiting core beliefs that lie at the heart of your bulimia and that keep pulling you back to your eating disorder as a coping mechanism.
  • When you understand how and why you decided to use food as a way of coping with your world, the structure inside of you that maintains your eating disorder starts to break down.
  • As you move towards bulimia recovery, we will support you in building new ways of coping and managing with the ups and downs of life that are healthy and supportive of the adult that you are today

Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

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