Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia Nervosa (BN), is characterised by binge eating, followed by inappropriate compensatory behaviour to get rid of the calories. People with this illness may not lose any weight, and may successfully hide their disordered behaviour, which can make it harder to detect.

Typically, people with bulimia nervosa will eat large amounts of high calorie food in a single sitting. This eating is often compulsive, which means the person is unable to stop eating until they feel extremely full or have finished whatever they’re eating. 

bulimia is disordered eating disorder behaviour and sufferers need support and medical help for recovery

After a binge, people with bulimia will try to prevent weight gain by purging, which may take several different forms, including excessive exercise, vomiting, laxatives and diuretics.

People with bulimia will also try to control their weight by fasting or restricting food, when they’re not binging.

Bulimia is most likely to develop during the late teens or early twenties. People with bulimia are usually dissatisfied with their bodies, want to lose weight, and fear weight gain. Sometimes, the disorder starts as an attempt to lose weight after other diets have failed.

Are you concerned about someone you love?

Young boy with an eating disorder is sad and along and needs mental health and family support

Changes to behaviour

  • Excessive desire for privacy in the bathroom or bedroom
  • Unexpected absences (walks or drives)
  • Evidence of laxative or diuretic use
  • Skipping meals or avoiding eating with others
  • Sudden dietary changes
  • Obsessive eating – cutting food into very small pieces, chewing excessively, separating different types of food on plate
  • Eating unusually large amounts of food without gaining weight
Teenager suffering from bulimia is secretive and sad and needs eating disorder support for recovery.
  • Food disappearing, large numbers of empty food wrappers or containers in the rubbish
  • Hiding or hoarding food
  • Shoplifting or spending large amounts of money on food
  • Excessive or rigid exercise regimes
  • Going to the bathroom after meals
  • Use of mints or gum to cover the smell of vomit
  • Running water to cover the sound of vomiting
  • Wearing baggy or layered clothing
Bulimia is binging and purging and can lead to serious health problems if eating disorder support isn't given.

Psychological Changes

  • Preoccupation with body weight and dieting
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Low self esteem, shame and guilt
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Emotional behaviour and mood swings

Physical Indicators

  • Frequent changes to weight
  • Sore throat, tooth decay and bad breath
  • Rounder face caused by swollen salivary glands
  • Poor skin
  • Irregular periods
  • Lethargy and tiredness
  • Swollen or red marks on the fingers or knuckles that may be used to stimulate the gag reflex

  • Irregular periods
  • Lethargy and tiredness
  • Swollen or red marks on the fingers or knuckles that may be used to stimulate the gag reflex


Bulimia is a very serious illness, but it can be treated.

If you or a loved one is showing a number of these signs, it’s time to seek help. 

Xavier’s older sister was diagnosed with Bulimia when she was 16 years old. Read his story.

Become a member of EDFA for $25 per year (Australian Carers Only)

EDFA is a proud not-for-profit, predominantly volunteer-run organisation. 

We invite you to be part of a revolutionary peer support group making positive changes in the eating disorder space. Strength in numbers means we are able to affect change and have the collective voice of the carers recognised.

We provide opportunities to connect with other parents and carers who share your experiences, helping you to feel less alone and isolated.

Yearly membership is just $25.

Membership gives access to:

A range of resources in our Member Only section of the website including Educational Recordings, Member Recommended Clinicians and Services, and more.

Over 70 support groups and education sessions per year. including:

Twice monthly education sessions

strive Carer Support Groups for carers of loved ones with any type of eating disorder (run three times each month)

strive ARFID Carer Support Group (run monthly)

strive bulimia nervosa Carer Support Group (run quarterly)

strive binge eating disorder Carer Support Group (run quarterly) 

strive4Men Carer Support Group (run quarterly) – a group for male carers 

siblings Support Group (run monthly) – a group for siblings of those with an eating disorder

daily online support through our private strive Australia Facebook Group and the opportunity to connect, share, learn and ask questions is another benefit of being part of our EDFA community.

discounts to eating disorder events and conferences

Your membership helps EDFA with ongoing costs of running a not-for-profit organisation, and importantly, shows Government that families value, need and believe in this type of lived experience support. Strength in numbers helps EDFA lobby as the collective voice of carers for  better services, treatments, access to expert clinicians and specialised eating disorder units, to help our loved ones in their recovery journey and to acknowledge the impact of an eating disorder diagnosis on the entire family unit.

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