Bulimia

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 overeating and then making 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
  • brittle bones
  • 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.

More about how CAMHS works

Treating bulimia

Treatment depends on how serious your condition is. If it's mild, you may be able to manage your own recovery using self-help techniques. If it's more serious, you may be offered medication and expert support.

Your treatment may involve counselling, working with a dietician, or support from a psychiatrist 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.

Find out more about the drugs used to treat bulimia
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