Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia Nervosa is a relatively common eating disorder that can be translated to mean 'hunger of an ox'. Only recognised as an eating disorder in 1979, bulimia is categorised by the binge/purge cycle that defines this disorder. This means that someone with bulimia eats large amounts of food, then trying to undo the effects of the binge there is an urge to immediately get rid of the food by vomiting or taking laxatives (or both), by starving or reducing food intake, or by working off the calories with exercise in an attempt not to gain weight.


A person with bulimia may:

  • Go on starvation diets followed by uncontrollable binge eating
  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence 
  • Stress 
  • Difficulty with feelings/ emotions
  • Make themselves vomit, take laxative or other forms of purging following eating and/or binges
  • May suffer with a sore throat constantly 
  • Have depression and anxiety 
  • Be obsessed with calories and dieting
  • Be obsessed with weight and shape 
  • Over-exercise

Bulimia is more difficult for others to notice as it is less visable than other eating disorder as you tend not to lose weight as dramatically as with anorexia, your weight may be in the normal range or your weight will fluctuate. Even people close to you at home or work may not recognise the illness, so it can persist for many years undetected. While the effects of bulimia may be viewed as less dramatic than anorexia, this disorder is just as distressing and difficult to live with. In a similar way to anorexia, bulimia can take over the life of the person with the disorder, making them feel trapped and desperate. Bingeing, purging and dramatic loss of fluids can cause physical problems which can usually be corrected once the body is nourished in an even and moderate way. In extreme cases the effects ofthis disorder can be fatal due to heart failure. An imbalance or dangerously low levels of the essential minerals in the body can significantly, even fatally affect the working of vital internal organs. Other dangers of bulimia include rupture of the stomach, choking, erosion of tooth enamel, painful swallowing and drying up of the salivary glands. Laxative abuse can lead to serious bowel problems.

Bulimia is estimated to affect 5-6 in 100 people but is growing. These disorders are underreported because of the high shame that surrounds these disorders few people come forward for help. Treatment services and support is available for bulimia in Northern Irealnd with both specialist services available and dedicated support groups open for anyone who is worreid about bulimia. For more information about this support please call EDANI on 02890235959 or email us at edani@btconnect.com in confidence. 


  • Frequent weight changes
  • Sore throat, tooth decay and bad breath caused by excessive vomiting
  • Swollen salivary glands making the face rounder
  • Poor skin condition and possible hair loss
  • Irregular 'periods' or loss of interest in sex
  • Lethargy and tiredness
  • Increased risk of heart problems and problems with other internal organs
Psychological Effects: 
  • Uncontrollable urges to eat vast amounts of food
  • An obsession with food, or feeling 'out of control' around food
  • Distorted perception of body weight and shape
  • Emotional behaviour and mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression; low self-esteem, shame and guilt
  • Isolation- feeling helpless and lonely
Behavioural Effects: 
  • Bingeing and vomiting
  • Disappearing to the toilet after meals in order to vomit food eaten
  • Excessive use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas
  • Periods of fasting
  • Excessive exercising
  • Secrecy and reluctance to socialise
  • Shoplifting for food; abnormal amounts of money spent on food
  • Food disappearing unexpectedly or being secretly hoarded

Eating Disorder Association NI
28 Bedford Street,
Belfast, BT2 7FE
Phone: 028 9023 5959
Email: info@eatingdisordersni.co.uk