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What causes bulimia nervosa?
"I felt shame and guilt, but I was fortunate that I lived alone at the time. If I was with people, I did everything I could to make it look like going to the bathroom was normal."

No one knows for sure, but researchers have several theories. No single theory accounts for all the possible causes and symptoms, the wide range of people affected, or why one person develops bulimia nervosa while another person with a similar profile does not. Historically, societal pressure to be thin has been lower for males than females. However, bulimia nervosa is thought to be increasing among males as more societal attention is paid to trim and fit male body images. Reasons for engaging in bulimic behavior are similar in males and females and can include the following:
  • Distorted notions of self-perceived body image
  • Feeling societal pressure to look a certain way
  • Binge eating for emotional comfort; purging to manage weight
  • Need to feel control

Risk factors for developing bulimia nervosa

  • Genetics
  • Early onset of menstruation
  • Past weight issues
  • Body image issues
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Perfectionism
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Past physical or sexual abuse
  • History of substance abuse


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Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person engages in binge eating (eating a lot of food in a short time) followed by some type of behavior to prevent weight gain from the food that was eaten. This behavior can take two forms: self-induced vomiting, misuse of enemas, laxatives, diet pills (called purging) and excessive exercise, fasting, or diabetic omission of insulin (called non-purging). Some people with bulimia nervosa may also starve themselves for periods of time before binge eating again. Bulimia nervosa has important mental, emotional, and physical aspects that require consideration during treatment.

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