A guide for young people Bulimia

Worrying about your weight and getting caught up in binge and purge cycles are common symptoms of the eating disorder bulimia. Find out more about bulimia and how to get help.

What is bulimia?


Bulimia is an eating disorder where you get into a cycle of overeating then making yourself sick to try to control your weight.

People with bulimia may have previously suffered from anorexia.

You may feel that parts of your life are out of control and that purging or restricting calories give you a sense of control. But bulimia can seriously damage your body, so it's important to get help and find other ways of coping.

Although it's a serious condition, there's lots of help available.

The symptoms of bulimia

Just because you experience one or more of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re definitely affected by bulimia. It’s important to talk to your GP to get a full diagnosis.

You may experience short- and long-term effects on your body, as well as emotional and behavioural symptoms:

  • thinking obsessively about your weight
  • binge eating
  • exercising too much
  • isolating yourself
  • feeling helpless
  • poor sleep
  • low mood
  • losing interest in things and people.

Physical symptoms may also include:

  • sore throat
  • dehydration
  • bad teeth (from vomiting)
  • heart problems
  • muscle spasms
  • swollen glands
  • some weight loss
  • change in periods
  • constipation
  • feeling weak and tired
  • stomach cramps
  • weight swings

What to do about bulimia

A mother and daughter having a serious discussion at home in front of a radiator

Take the first step – talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.

It's really important to get help quickly because bulimia can cause long-term damage to your body. Remember, bulimia can happen to anyone and is not your fault.

You should also see your GP. They may offer to refer you to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), an expert or a psychiatrist who can help you.

Reaching out for help

Treating bulimia


Treatment depends on how serious your condition is.

Your treatment may involve one-to-one talking therapy, family therapy and working with a dietitian to help you gradually return to healthy eating habits.

You'll be supported to make sure you're getting enough to eat and learn what your healthy weight should be.

You may also be offered medication if psychological treatments do not help.


Get help now

Where to get help

If you're struggling with your eating, or finding it difficult to cope, you are not alone. Here are some services that can support you. 

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:
  • Beat

    Offers information and support for anybody affected by eating disorders.

    One-to-one web chat available.

    Enter your postcode in the HelpFinder to see what eating disorder support is available in your area.

    Information on helpline accessibility and confidentiality available here.

    Opening times:
    365 days a year - weekdays (9am - 8pm); weekends (4pm - 8pm)
  • Anorexia and Bulimia Care

    Offers support to anyone affected by eating disorders.

    Hosts an online community for anybody supporting someone with an eating disorder.

    Opening times:
    9:30am - 5pm, Tuesday - Friday
  • Youth Access

    Provides information about local counselling and advice services for young people aged 12-25.

    You can find local services on their website.

  • The Mix

    Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

    Free short-term counselling service available.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, seven days a week