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Published On: May 7, 2024|Categories: Eating Disorder Information|

Eating disorders are a surprisingly common mental health condition Americans face, with approximately nine percent of the US population struggling with some form of an ED. According to a survey from 2020, 9.8 million Americans will battle an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime.

A variety of eating disorders exist, with anorexia (intense food restriction) being one of the more well-known manifestations. Another form — bulimia nervosa — is just as threatening to one’s physical health and continues to devastate a large portion of the population as well.  

What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where you consume a large amount of food at once and then purge it all from your body in some way. Most often, binging is done in private and there is a sense of a lack of control in regards to binge eating — you find that you cannot stop eating or cannot control what kind of food you are consuming. 

This usually causes a fear of gaining weight or feelings of guilt or shame or poor self-image. As a result, purging occurs to counteract the overeating. Purging typically manifests in the form of excessive exercise, inducing vomiting, or misusing diuretics or laxatives. 

This is not because pleasure is found in purging, but usually as a reaction to the guilt experienced from overeating or as a way to avoid the consequences of consuming that number of calories.

Additional signs of bulimia include:

  • A fear of weight gain
  • Trying to find ways to lose or manage weight that are usually unhealthy
  • Limiting certain foods, fasting or eating small amounts in between binges
  • Experiencing extreme mood swings
  • Struggle with body image and having an overall negative opinion of your body shape/weight/appearance.

Bulimia is challenging because not only does it pose several health risks, but it causes numerous mental health complications as well. Typically, meeting with therapists and trained nutritionists is the best-case scenario for recovering from advanced stages of bulimia.

What causes bulimia?

Eating disorders are complicated and rarely have a straightforward answer as to what causes them. As with all mental health disorders, a certain number of factors, both environmental and other risk factors, dictate whether or not bulimia is likely to develop. 

Family history

It has been noted that patterns in families do exist – if an individual has a parent with a history of an eating disorder, it is more likely that their child will be at risk for developing one as well. While no one gene in particular determines whether a mental health disorder, including bulimia, will develop, studies show that certain mental health conditions do run in families. 

Societal pressures 

Society is obsessed with this idea of a perfect body type, and many individuals – men and women – have struggled with this unrealistic perfectionism. Certain sports emphasize a particular physical stature and weight, gymnasts and dancers are encouraged to be slim and social media messages often promote pictures and themes suggesting weight loss or small body size. 

It can be hard navigating photoshopped images and societal pressures, but it’s crucial to normalize a healthy body weight achieved from balanced nutrition and exercise instead of an overly thin frame achieved from unhealthy dieting or restriction.

Trauma or abuse

Often, those who experienced trauma – including sexual, physical or emotional abuse – are more likely to develop a mental health condition such as bulimia. Unaddressed trauma is especially damaging and can have many negative consequences in the long term.


Typically viewed as a positive thing, dieting can be a gateway for the development of eating disorders. When dieting is done frequently but feels inadequate or ineffective, extreme measures may be sought out. Or, dieting becomes so normalized that it turns into an unhealthy way of eating, possibly developing into an eating disorder.

While obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight is key to living a balanced life, it is advisable to diet under the guidance of a dietician or nutritionist who can appropriately help you meal plan and exercise to achieve a healthy weight in a professionally monitored environment.

Mental health conditions 

Anxiety and depression can significantly worsen the inclination towards an eating disorder. Additionally, any bullying that was experienced as a result of one’s appearance or weight can also be a leading cause for the development of an eating disorder. Substance use disorders and addiction may also trigger or worsen disordered eating habits. 

In the pursuit of total wellness, it is important to seek the help of a mental health counselor to prevent mental health conditions from worsening into eating disorders and to pursue healthy coping mechanisms overall. 

Seek help for bulimia nervosa

Bulimia can be a frightening experience, especially when one is struggling with the sense of a complete lack of control over the disorder. To prevent the negative effects of bulimia from impacting your body, and to protect your mental health, professional counseling and nutritional services are advisable

If you are seeking help for bulimia nervosa and would like to get in touch with a counselor quickly, Seeds of Hope is here to help. Our specialists will work with you to personalize a program designed to help you meet your goals. 

To get in touch, contact our offices by calling 610-644-6464 or contact us online anytime to learn more. 

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