What is bulimia?
Bulimia is an eating disorder where you can get into a cycle of “bingeing” (over-eating) and “purging” (trying to control your weight by making yourself sick, using laxatives, or over-exercising).
Although many of us will eat a bit more than usual on occasion, this is different to bingeing. Bingeing is not enjoyable; in fact, it is often very distressing and you do not feel in control of it. During a binge, you may struggle to stop even if you want to, and you may feel disconnected from your body – some people may even struggle to remember what they’ve eaten afterwards. It is usually a way of dealing with difficult feelings and emotions, and is often followed by a desire to purge.
You may feel that parts of your life are out of control and that purging or restricting calories gives 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.
Bulimia is a serious condition but there's support available to you to help you get through it.
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:
Physical symptoms may also include:
- sore throat
- bad teeth (from vomiting)
- heart problems
- muscle spasms
- swollen glands
- some weight loss
- change in periods
- feeling weak and tired
- stomach cramps
- weight swings
What to do about bulimia
Take the first step – talk to someone you like and trust, like a teacher, relative, counsellor or friend.
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.
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.
What treatment you receive may depend on how severe your condition is.
Your treatment may involve one-to-one talking therapy, family therapy and working with a dietitian (someone who helps with your food and nutrition) 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. You can find out more about taking medication for your mental health on our medications page.
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.
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)
Talk ED is the new name for Anorexia and Bulimia Care. Talk ED offers support to anyone affected by eating disorders.
Talk ED also has real stories, blogs and advice from young people with lived experience.
You can book a 1:1 support call here to speak to someone if you're struggling with an eating disorder or if you're worried about someone else via phone, video call, or online chat.
- Opening times:
- 10am - 5pm, Monday - Friday
Provides information about local counselling and advice services for young people aged 12-25.
You can find local services on their website.