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NHS Choices Condition

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The main symptoms of bulimia are bingeing and purging.


Bingeing is repeatedly eating vast quantities of high-calorie food, without necessarily feeling hungry, or needing to eat. The urge to eat can begin as an attempt to deal with emotional problems, but it can quickly become obsessive and out of control.

Bingeing is usually a very quick process and you may feel physically uncomfortable afterwards. Bingeing as a symptom of bulimia is something that happens on a regular basis, not just once or twice.

Sometimes, the binges are spontaneous, where you eat anything that you can find at that moment, but others may be planned with a shopping trip to buy foods specifically to binge on.


Purging is a response to the bingeing. After you have eaten lots of food in a short space of time, you may feel physically bloated and unattractive. You may also feel guilty, regretful, and full of self-hatred.

However, the main impulse to purge is a powerful, over-riding fear of putting on weight. The most common methods of purging involve making yourself sick, or using laxatives to encourage your body to pass the food quickly. Less common methods of purging include taking diet pills, over-exercising, extreme dieting, periods of starvation, or taking illegal drugs, such as amphetamines.

Bulimia is often a vicious circle. If you have the condition, it is likely that you have very low self-esteem. You may also think that you are over-weight, even though you maybe at, or near, a normal weight for your height and build.

This may encourage you to set yourself strict rules about dieting, eating, or exercising, which are very hard to maintain. If you fail to keep to these strict rules, you binge on the things that you have denied yourself. After feeling guilty about bingeing, you purge to get rid of the calories.

Other signs of bulimia

Other signs of bulimia can include:

  • regular changes in weight,
  • an obsessive attitude towards food and eating,
  • large amounts of money being spent on food,
  • disappearing soon after eating (usually visiting the toilet to vomit),
  • episodes of over-eating,
  • periods of starvation,
  • scarred knuckles (from forcing fingers down the throat to induce vomiting),
  • depression and anxiety,
  • distorted opinions about body weight and shape, and
  • isolation.
view information about Bulimia on www.nhs.co.uk »

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