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1 Your Role
I want to learn about treatment options for:

2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old

graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.
What is bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves binging and purging behaviors. Binging, or episodes of excessive overeating, is usually characterized by a lack of control. To compensate for this loss of control and to avoid weight gain from binging episodes, bulimic people purge food by vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, using enemas or exercising excessively. While purging behavior often brings temporary relief, it is usually followed by guilt. Bulimia usually affects more women than men and is most common in teens and young adults.

Causes of bulimia.

While the exact cause of bulimia is unknown, various genetic, psychological and social factors are thought to play a role in its development. Risk factors include:

  • A history of eating disorders or obesity in the family
  • Issues with control and perfectionism
  • Societal pressures to be thin
  • Job-related pressure to be thin (i.e. modeling or ballet)
  • Childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse

Diagnosing bulimia

People with bulimia are often normal weight, so the disease can be difficult to detect. Physical symptoms of bulimia vary, but may include:

  • Dental problems, such as cavities, tooth erosion or gum infections
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Swollen cheeks
  • Acne or rashes
  • Small cuts across the finger joints from inducing vomiting
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Dehydration

People with bulimia may also overeat but not gain weight, go to the bathroom right after meals or act secretive about eating.

Treating bulimia.

If untreated, bulimia can result in a variety of complications, including constipation, hemorrhoids, pancreatitis and tears in the esophagus. Eventually, bulimic individuals may develop heart problems, kidney failure and osteoporosis.

If bulimia has not progressed to the point where hospitalization is needed, most treatment plans involve a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication and support groups. When co-occurring conditions (such as substance abuse or depression) are present, they may need to be treated first.