What is Bulimia Nervosa?

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

“I had never even considered throwing up until I saw a Lifetime movie about a girl who had bulimia. The process seemed so easy. I could eat whatever I wanted and however much I wanted, and then just get rid of it with a simple flush of the toilet,” stated Ashley Marcin when asked about the beginning of her decade-long battle against bulimia nervosa (Marcin, 2019). Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating and purging (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Media usually portrays bulimia as a young girl throwing up into the toilet, but it can affect any age, gender, and race, and encompasses a wide variety of methods including laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. Bulimia seems attractive to people with eating disorders because you can still eat the foods you want to eat without the fear of putting on weight. 

Individuals with bulimia usually have an underlying issue with their self-image, making this disorder difficult to overcome. Ashley Marcin mentioned that she can remember her eating disorder first beginning when she began to skip her meals in an effort to maintain her image as a cheerleader. However, she would end up binging at the end of the day as a result of starving herself, which eventually led to the cycle of binging and purging that plagued her for 10 years (Marcin, 2019). Low self-esteem and a preoccupation with your body shape can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, media influence, childhood trauma, or even genetics (Mahoney, 2019).  For Ashley, bulimia became a way she can have control amidst stressful life events such as a breakup or exams (Marcin, 2019). For others, social media can have a large impact by pushing standards of what a body should look like and encouraging fad diets. Easy access to the lives of others through a screen makes it easy to think that everyone else is skinny, happy, and beautiful. Lastly, some people have a predisposition for the disorder if they have immediate family who also have the disorder. 

The effects of bulimia nervosa can be detrimental to one’s mental and physical health. Mental complications of bulimia include a poor self-esteem, negative thoughts, and potentially developing related psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. It can also lead to suicidal ideation and self-harm. Approximately 30% of individuals with bulimia nervosa also partake in self-harm practices such as cutting (Mahoney, 2019). One can also develop physical consequences including heart issues, tooth decay, dehydration, abnormal periods in women, and digestive problems (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

Bulimia nervosa may seem like a cycle that is inescapable, but there is hope. To break the cycle, one has to treat the root issues that trigger the cycle. It is important to learn new healthy coping mechanisms to cope with stress and create positive relationships. This can be done through psychotherapy, medication, and nutrition education. Psychotherapies include cognitive behavioral therapy which can help one learn to develop a normal eating pattern and replace negative beliefs with positive ones. Family-based treatment allows for parents to work together with their child to combat bulimia and interpersonal psychotherapy can help with any difficulties that may have arisen within close relationships (Mayo Clinic, 2018). The road to recovery may be long and slow, but it is important and rewarding in the end. Ashley Marcin laments how 10 years of her life was lost to bulimia and encourages others not to let the same happen to them (Marcin, 2019). There is no better time to seek help than now. 


Mahoney, B. (2019, October 21). What causes bulimia nervosa? Center For Discovery. https://centerfordiscovery.com/blog/causes-bulimia-nervosa/

Marcin, A. (2019, April 18). Bulimia: A personal story. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/bulimia-took-a-decade-of-my-life

Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 10). Bulimia nervosa. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353621

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