About bulimia nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that affects the way you eat and the way you feel about food and your body. People with bulimia repeatedly binge eat – eat large amounts in one sitting, with a loss of control – and engage in ‘purging’ behaviours such as vomiting and restricting behaviour to compensate for the food they have eaten.
You may want to read this article on eating disorders first, and then come back here for bulimia nervosa in particular. The article explains that eating disorders are much more than an extreme focus on diet and exercise. They are not a ‘phase’ or a ‘choice’, and it is extremely hard to recover from them without professional help. However, with the right treatment and support, you can make a full recovery.
Who gets bulimia nervosa?
Bulimia most often begins in adolescence or early adulthood, but it can affect people of all ages, genders, races and social groups. Sadly, the stereotype of bulimia nervosa affecting only young women can sometimes stop other people from getting the help they need.
Bulimia is often associated with other mental health conditions. If you have bulimia, you may also experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or substance-use disorder (SUD). You may engage in self-harming behaviours when feeling distressed. Your clinician can help design a treatment plan for you that takes all these factors into account.
Other strategies to support recovery
The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and which may be used to complement and support it.
Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing. In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress.
Family/whānau support and involvement
If someone you love is experiencing bulimia, you are likely feeling many emotions: fear, sadness, worry, frustration and more. It’s important to remember that eating disorders are strongly influenced by biology: it is not your fault that your loved one has bulimia, and it’s not something they can change or recover from without professional help.
As a family/whānau member, you have an important role to play. Learning as much as you can about bulimia and its treatment will reassure you and help you support both their recovery and your own wellbeing. Reach out to your own support network for practical help, seek counselling for yourself, and remember to care for your own physical and mental health.
Thanks to Dr Roger Mysliwiec, Director New Zealand Eating Disorders Clinic, for reviewing this content.
Date last reviewed: March 2023