Bulimia is an eating disorder where the person experiences impulsive urges to eat and regularly participates in compulsive binge eating. This is often followed by unhealthy compensatory behaviours to prevent weight gain. Commonly these may include self-induced vomiting and or use of laxatives/diurectics also known as ‘purging’.

At Schoen Clinic we have years of experience in treating bulimia. We are able to offer intense support and treatment in our day programme which is led by a psychological therapist and specialist consultant psychiatrist. Regaining healthy eating and improving your self-esteem are essential to addressing bulimia.

Making the connection between your physical and mental health is an important part of your recovery from bulimia; psychoeducation, psychological therapies and understanding triggers can help you achieve mind and body balance. We will also help you develop skills for managing intrusive negative thoughts and poor impulse control through a variety of group and individual sessions.

Bulimia: causes & symptoms

There are many reasons which may start you believing you need to control your weight and it may build up gradually before it becomes a cycle of binge eating and unhealthy behaviours. You may feel these eating behaviours achieve weight loss or a sustainment at a certain level of weight.
You may start to have impulsive eating habits where you crave food and feel a compulsion to binge with large amount of food. Following this, you may feel a number of negative feelings and thoughts which lead you to ‘purge’. Feelings such as guilt, self-disgust, embarrassment, anxiety, despair, fear and a negative spiral of deprecatory self-talk.

How does bulimia develop?

As with other eating disorders, there is no one definitive cause of bulimia. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing bulimia.

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Childhood anxiety
  • Weight concerns based on the thin ideal body type
  • Experience of trauma, including abuse
  • Childhood obesity
  • Early puberty
  • Genetic vulnerability shown by a family history of eating disorders or other mental health disorders

Compensatory behaviours

  • Compensatory behaviours can include:
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxative misuse
  • Diuretic misuse
  • Misuse of other medications (e.g. diet pills, insulin)
  • Fasting or significant dietary restriction
  • Excessive exercise

Other symptoms of bulimia

There are further symptoms that are associated with bulimia, which may include the following:

  • Binging on food that one would normally avoid
  • Restrictive eating or dieting outside of binge eating episodes
  • Secrecy of binge eating due to shame
  • Fluid disturbances, sometimes leading to oedema (fluid retention shown as swelling)
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte disturbances from repeated purging behaviours
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms e.g. bloating and constipation
  • Dental issues
  • Significant impact of shape and weight on self-esteem
  • Being within a healthy weight range, or overweight