Texas State University Logo
adjust type sizemake font smallermake font largerreset font size


What Is Bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging. Binge eating is the uncontrolled consumption of large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time. Common methods of purging are self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives, over-exercising, fasting, or severe diets. The binge-purge cycle can range from a relatively infrequent response to stress to a debilitating pattern that absorbs most of the person's time, energy and money.

Who Develops Bulimia?

Anyone, regardless of gender race or socio-economic status can develop bulimia. An individual is typically of normal or near normal weight, although they may have a distorted image of their bodies. They tend to be perfectionists, high achievers, and overly concerned about what others think of them.

What Causes Bulimia?

Experts continue to search for the causes of bulimia. Most now agree that biological, psychological, and social factors all play part. Research has suggested that bulimia is an attempt to relieve emotional stress for those who lack alternative coping skills. Social factors within our culture also contribute to eating disorders. People are bombarded with the emphasis placed on slim, "perfect" bodies and they come to believe that their bodies don't meet these unrealistic standards.

How Can Bulimia Hurt?

Although bulimia is thought to be primarily an emotional problem, it can cause serious physical problems.

  • Teeth

    The stomach acid from frequent vomiting can destroy tooth enamel, cause serious tooth decay, and damage gums. The high carbohydrate content of binges contributes to cavities in acid-eroded teeth.
  • Heart

    When the body's fluid balance is upset by frequent purging, an irregular heart rhythm, and even heart failure or death may result.
  • Digestive Organs

    Problems can range from nausea, stomach cramps, ulcers, and colitis to fatal rupturing of the esophagus or stomach.
  • Salivary Glands

    These glands produce saliva to aid in swallowing and digestion. They may become swollen or infected.
  • Muscles

    Muscle weakness, cramps, stiffness, or numbness may result from the loss of potassium. This can interfere with performance in physical activities.
  • Menstrual Cycle

    Occasionally a woman may experience amenorrhea, an absence of the menstrual cycle, due to reduced female hormone levels.
  • Other Organs

    Bulimia may result in damage to other vital organs such as the kidneys and liver. Diabetes may develop as a result of bulimia.

How Can One Get Help?

It is important that the person admits to her/himself that there is an eating disorder in order to seek help. Medical and psychological help should be sought from professionals experienced in the treatment of such disorders. Although it is difficult to disclose that one has an eating disorder, there is also a sense of relief at no longer having to keep a secret that consumes such a large part of one's life. The TxState Counseling Center is available to students who need help with eating disorders or any other personal/psychological concerns.