Bulimia : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Bulimia nervosa, Binge-purge behavior, Eating disorder – bulimia

Definition

Bulimia is an illness in which a person binges on food or has regular episodes of significant overeating and feels a loss of control. The affected person then uses various methods — such as vomiting or laxative abuse — to prevent weight gain.

Many (but not all) people with bulimia also have anorexia nervosa.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Many more women than men have bulimia, and the disorder is most common in adolescent girls. The affected person is usually aware that her eating pattern is abnormal and may experience fear or guilt with the binge-purge episodes.

The exact cause of bulimia is unknown. Genetic, psychological, trauma, family, society, or cultural factors may play a role. Bulimia is likely due to more than one factor.

Pictures & Images

Upper gastrointestinal system

The upper gastrointestinal organs include the mouth, esophagus and stomach.


Review Date : 8/28/2009
Reviewed By : David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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