Worrying about your weight and getting caught up in binge and purge cycles are common symptoms of the eating disorder bulimia. Find out more about bulimia and how to get help.

What is bulimia?

It's an eating disorder where you get into a cycle of urges to overeat and then make yourself sick to try to control your weight.

People with bulimia may have previously suffered from anorexia.

You may feel that parts of your life are out of control, and that purging or restricting calories gives you a sense of control. 

Bulimia can seriously damage your body, so it's important to get help and find other ways of coping.

Although it's a serious condition, there's lots of help available.

The symptoms of bulimia

You may experience short and long-term effects on your body, as well as emotional and behavioural symptoms:

  • thinking obsessively about your weight
  • binge eating
  • exercising too much
  • isolating yourself
  • feeling helpless
  • poor sleep
  • low mood
  • losing interest in things and people.

Physical symptoms may also include:

  • sore throat
  • dehydration
  • bad teeth (from vomiting)
  • heart problems
  • muscle spasms
  • swollen glands
  • some weight loss
  • change in periods (for girls)
  • constipation
  • feeling weak and tired
  • stomach cramps
  • weight swings

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by bulimia. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

What to do about bulimia

Take the first step – talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend. It's really important to get help quickly because bulimia can cause long-term damage to your body. Remember, bulimia can happen to anyone and is not your fault.

You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to the child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.

Treating bulimia

Treatment depends on how serious your condition is. 

Your treatment may involve 1:1 talking therapy, family therapy and working a dietitian to help you gradually return to healthy eating habits. 

You'll be supported to make sure you're getting enough to eat and learn what your healthy weight should be. You may also be offered medication if psychological treatments do not help.

Where to get help

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

  • Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis
  • If you need urgent help text YM to 85258
  • All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
  • Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.


  • If you have an eating disorder, or someone in your family does, b-eat is the place you can go to for information and support.
  • Helpline number for under 25's: 0808 801 0711 (Daily 3pm-10pm)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • To know what local help and support you can get, put your postcode into HelpFinder

Anorexia and Bulimia Care

  • If you're being affected by an eating disorder, you can ring the helpline. 
  • Helpline 03000 11 12 13 (option 1: support line, option 2: family and friends)

Youth Access

  • A place for you to get advice and information about counselling in the UK, if you're aged 12-25. 

The Mix

  • If you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need. 
  • Freephone: 0808 808 4994 (13:00-23:00 daily)
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