Bulimia nervosa

There has been a sharp increase in eating disorders like bulimia nervosa post-pandemic, as more young people than ever are receiving treatment in the UK. Sadly bulimia nervosa is one of the most common, accounting for 19% of eating disorder diagnoses. Bulimia is recognised by the DSM-5 as recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed by compensatory purging behaviour such as inducing vomiting, consuming laxatives or excessively exercising.

Bulimia is a serious behavioural addiction that requires medical intervention in order to overcome. If you think that you may have bulimia, Banbury Lodge can help you take back control of your eating habits.

Bulimia Nervosa - person with lots of food

Do I have bulimia nervosa?

If you have started to develop a pattern of bingeing and purging, you may be worried about bulimia. If you think you have this eating disorder, it is important that you take steps to combat it as soon as possible.

Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Do I compulsively eat large amounts of food in a short space of time?
  • Do I feel myself losing control over the amount of food I consume?
  • Do I feel ashamed or guilty after eating food?
  • Do I have fears about gaining weight?
  • Do I engage in purging behaviours, including self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives, fasting or exercising to excess?
  • Do I try to avoid eating out or eating in front of people?
  • Do I hide food around the house? Do I hoard food?
  • Am I extra critical about my weight and body image?
  • Do I become tense or anxious when thinking about food?
  • Do I organise responsibilities around shopping for food, bingeing and purging?

While taking that first step and admitting you have a problem can feel incredibly daunting, it is likely that you’ll be met only with love and support. Recognising that you and your body are worthy of receiving help is powerful, and our facility can offer you the tools to end the destruction caused by bulimia.

Effects of bulimia nervosa

Unfortunately there are many effects that come alongside bulimia nervosa, and these can impact you both physically and psychologically.

Physical effects of bulimia nervosa

Some of the physical effects of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach pains and gastrointestinal issues
  • Acid reflux
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Decline in skin condition
  • Oral health issues
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Sore throat and swollen salivary glands
  • Damage to vocal cords
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Dehydration
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Changes to blood sugar levels
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Issues with menstruation
  • Damage to kidneys
  • Increased risk of heart issues

Bulimia nervosa - man with heart pain

Psychological effects of bulimia nervosa

Some of the psychological effects of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Increased risk of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression
  • Increased risk of suicidal ideations
  • Distorted perception of body image
  • Lack of confidence and low self-esteem
  • Feeling shame and guilt about eating

These physical and psychological effects can cause irreversible and long-term damage to your health and well-being. While treatment and recovery may seem like an insurmountable task, it is entirely possible with the right support.

Who is at risk of developing bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa can affect any gender at any age, although it is most commonly seen in adolescent and young adult women. Studies have shown that men represent 25% of bulimia nervosa sufferers, however, this number could be underrepresented as many individuals may try to hide or cover up their symptoms without treatment.

Some other risk factors that may contribute towards bulimia development include:

  • Genetic predisposition and having a close family member with an eating disorder
  • Previously engaging in strict dieting or restricting food
  • Suffering from bullying or weight stigma
  • Experiencing childhood trauma or neglect
  • Feelings of loneliness or isolation

Bulimia nervosa is a complex condition and its development can involve a combination of emotional, environmental and physical factors. Its treatment, therefore, requires a multi-faceted approach that looks not just at food and eating habits, but the co-occurring emotional and mental health issues that work to cause and exacerbate the disorder.

Signs a loved one has bulimia nervosa

Recognising the signs of bulimia and addressing the disorder is essential if you want to help a family member in need. Some important signs to look out for include:

  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after mealtimes
  • Anxiety around food and eating
  • Avoiding eating in social situations
  • Social isolation and secrecy
  • Constant worries about body image
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide body shape
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Scarring on the back of hands (caused by the hands dragging against the teeth as the individual tries to induce vomiting)

But what should you do if you notice any of these signs? Helping a loved one with bulimia can be tough without knowing what steps to take.

How to help a loved one with bulimia

First, it is important to approach them at the right time and place, for example, in the privacy of their home or somewhere they feel safe. You should reassure your family member that you are there to support them and remain free from any judgement or criticism. Try not to make your loved one feel guilty about their disorder; instead encourage them to get the help they need.

Before starting a conversation, it helps to research bulimia nervosa and the different treatment options. Having a good understanding of the disorder and what is available to you may help to navigate the discussion.

If you are feeling particularly nervous about what to say, it may be useful to write everything down in a letter. This ensures you stick to the facts at hand and will prevent the conversation from becoming too emotional or heated. If you do feel like emotions are starting to run high, it may be beneficial to stop and come back to the discussion once everyone has cooled down.

Most importantly, don’t be disheartened if your loved one takes some time to recognise that they need help. Opening up an honest dialogue will let your family member know you are there when they need you, and plant a seed that hopefully grows into acceptance and willingness to get treatment.

Bulimia nervosa: know the facts

  • People with bulimia may display normal body weight, making it very difficult to spot the condition.
  • Studies have shown that peer pressure and family can influence bulimic symptoms in both females and males.
  • Bingeing and purging is not a choice – bulimia is a mental health and behavioural disorder rooted in uncontrollable compulsions.
  • Those with bulimia are at an increased risk of suicide, with 31.4% of sufferers attempting suicide in their lifetime.
  • Studies have shown that up to 50% of those suffering from an eating disorder like bulimia also abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.

Treatment for bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa can have a terrible impact on your mental and physical health, but the good news is, treatment is available. Banbury Lodge provides every single one of our clients with the resources they need to start feeling better. With our comprehensive programme, you will have access to a variety of different therapy methods, delivered in both individual and group settings. These therapies include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Art therapy
  • Sound therapy
  • Mindfulness and meditation

Through therapy and rehab treatment, you will uncover the reasons for your unhealthy relationship with food and learn coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and negative emotions. You will also be able to build confidence and a new sense of self-worth.

Banbury Lodge also offers 1 year of free aftercare which ensures you remain on track once you settle back into day-to-day life. Weekly therapy sessions allow you to connect with others in similar circumstances and provide a valuable network of support as you overcome potential triggers and difficulties.

Bulimia nervosa - meditation therapy

What’s next?

Are you ready to find your freedom and start your journey towards a healthier you? Banbury Lodge and its team of skilled therapists can help you to overcome your disordered eating and establish healthier habits around food. Bulimia nervosa has the potential to take over every corner of your life, but with our guidance, you can take back control.

If you would like to discuss your treatment options or have any questions about our treatment programme, call our admissions team today.

Frequently asked questions

Are there different types of bulimia nervosa?
Yes, there are two types of bulimia nervosa: purging and non-purging. Purging refers to self-induced vomiting and misuse of laxatives, whereas non-purging refers to compensatory behaviours such as excessive exercising or fasting.
Does bulimia ever go away?
Recovery from bulimia is certainly possible. However, it may be long-term, and in some cases lifelong battle that you will have to work hard to maintain. This is why it is important to understand the root cause of your bulimia, as well as recognise triggers that may lead to relapse. Banbury Lodge can help you do this through our treatment plan.
When should I see a doctor for bulimia nervosa?
As per the DSM-5, bulimia nervosa should be diagnosed if binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours or purging occur at least once a week for three months. If you are worried about your eating habits, however, do not delay speaking to a doctor. The sooner you get help, the easier it will be to change unhealthy thoughts and behaviour patterns.
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Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0203 553 3757