Bulimia Nervosa: The Roller Coaster

           Mood swings are never fun. No one wants to feel a wide range of emotions in a short span of time, nor does one want to be near someone vacillating from one end of the spectrum to the other. Those days seem to be the worst. Yet what happens when that swinging pattern, from one extreme end to the other, is imposed in one’s eating habits? One would lose control at the sight of food and devour it instinctively, only to spend the next minutes or hours fixated on how to rid one’s self of whatever was just consumed.. In the case of those with Bulimia Nervosa, , that pendulum swings from one end to the other quickly and instantly.

            Bulimia Nervosa as an eating disorder is characterized by bouts of binge eating followed by purging in which the  person tries to rid him/herself of that food. Like Anorexia Nervosa, this eating disorder stems from a desire to attain a skinny body. Yet unlike those with Anorexia whose drive for thinness leads them to constantly exercise restraint around food, people with Bulimia periodically feel a loss of control around food and thus binge. People with Bulimia often also try strict dieting and exercise regimens in order to lose weight but this restrain leads them to develop a deeper desire for that food. 

           Regardless of this heightened pull towards food, a 2013 study shows that the driving force behind this eating disorder remains a dissatisfaction with body image (Van den Eyde et al., 2013). This 2013 study monitored brain activity among women with Bulimia Nervosa when presented with food cues and body images. The study showed that women with Bulimia reacted differently than those without Bulimia when asked to compare themselves to slim women , but demonstrated the expected brain activity when presented with images of food. Thus we can see that this fixation with food felt by those with Bulimia have little to do with food and everything to do with their perception of body image and a critical view of themselves.


Van den Eyde, F., Giampietro V., Simmons A., Uher R., Andrew C., Harvey P., Campbell I., Schmidt U. (2013). Brain responses to body image stimuli but not food are altered in women with bulimia nervosa. BMC Psychiatry 13(302). doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-302



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