Like other eating disorders, bulimia is a complex disorder that requires professional care and treatment. We at Lavendla can help you with therapeutic support on your path to recovery.

What is bulimia?

Bulimia, also known as bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder characterised by periods of binge eating followed by inappropriate methods to avoid weight gain. These methods may include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and abuse of laxatives. Therefore, bulimia affects both physical and mental health, and its symptoms are often hidden, making it difficult to recognise.

Symptoms of bulimia

The symptoms of bulimia can vary, but some common signs include:

  • Repeated episodes of binge eating.
  • Feelings of loss of control during binge eating.
  • Regular use of unhealthy methods to prevent weight gain.
  • Fixation on body weight and shape
  • Swollen salivary glands and signs of self-induced vomiting.

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Causes and risk factors

The causes of bulimia are complex and can include genetic, psychological and socio-cultural factors. However, the issues below are often contributing causes.

  • History of diets and weight problems
  • Low self-esteem and body image problems
  • Stress and emotional problems
  • Cultural and societal pressure to achieve an ideal body image

Treatment of bulimia

The treatment of bulimia is individual and may include different strategies:

  • Psychological therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment method for bulimia as it focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors related to the eating disorder.
  • Medical care: Regular follow-up with a doctor is important to manage physical consequences of bulimia, such as electrolyte imbalance.
  • Support groups and counseling: Sharing experiences and getting support from others who have experienced similar problems can be very helpful.

When to seek help?

If you recognise signs of bulimia in yourself or someone close to you, it is important to seek help. The earlier a turning point is reached, the more the chances of successful treatment increase. Contact a psychologist experienced in eating disorders to discuss your options.


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Recovery and support

Recovering from bulimia is a journey that requires time, patience and the right support. Here are some steps that can help:

  • Understand that recovery is possible: Believe that change is possible and that you can recover from bulimia. If you need confirmation of this, feel free to talk to one of our psychologists who are happy to share their perspectives and experiences.
  • Seek professional help: a psychologist can provide guidance and support through your recovery process.
  • Build a supportive network: Friends and family can provide emotional support and encouragement.
  • Create healthy routines: Focusing on a balanced diet and regular physical activity can promote both physical and mental health.
  • Learn new positive coping strategies: Develop healthy ways to deal with stress and emotions.

Medical treatment and nutritional support

Drug treatment

Medication, such as antidepressants, can sometimes be used to treat symptoms of bulimia, especially when there is concurrent depression or anxiety. It is important that medication is strictly supervised by a doctor.

Nutritional therapy

Nutritional therapists play an important role in the treatment of bulimia. They help to:

  • Develop a personalised meal plan that encourages balanced and healthy eating.
  • Rebuild a healthy relationship with food and eating.
  • Address any nutritional deficiencies caused by the eating disorder.

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Psychosocial support

Family therapy

Family therapy can be a key component of treatment, especially for younger individuals with bulimia. Through this form of therapy:

  • Family members learn to provide support and understanding.
  • Family dynamics, which may have contributed to the development of the eating disorder, are explored and addressed.

Self-help groups

Participation in self-help groups or support groups can provide additional support and community. Therefore, sharing experiences and recovery strategies with others who have similar experiences can be invaluable.

Lifelong recovery and self-care

Personal development

Recovery from bulimia involves not only restoring healthy eating patterns, but also working on personal development. This can include:

  • Building self-esteem and self-compassion.
  • Finding new ways to manage emotions and stress.
  • Developing a positive body image.

Prevention of relapse

Relapse prevention is an important part of the recovery process. It can include:

  • Continued support from psychologists and other health professionals.
  • Paying attention to warning signs and triggers.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The road to recovery

Bulimia is a serious eating disorder that affects both body and mind. Therefore, it is important to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatment options so that individuals struggling with bulimia can find paths to recovery. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. At Lavendla, we cannot help you with the entire treatment, however, you can contact our therapists or psychologists for support and advice on your journey to recovery.


18 common questions and answers about bulimia

What is bulimia?

Bulimia, also known as bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder and mental health condition in which individuals experience episodes of binge eating followed by actions to avoid weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting. As eating disorders often share symptoms, it is good to contact a psychologist or doctor for a proper diagnosis.

What does it feel like to have bulimia?

People with bulimia may experience guilt and shame after binge eating, accompanied by an intense fear of weight gain. This can lead to recurrent behaviors to get rid of the calories.

How common is bulimia?

Lifetime prevalence estimates of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are at least .9%, 1.5%, and 3.5% among women, and .3% .5%, and 2.0% among men. It is a serious mental illness that requires professional treatment.

What does it mean to have bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterised by periods of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours such as vomiting, fasting or excessive exercise to prevent weight gain.

What happens in the body when you vomit?

Vomiting, especially when induced, can lead to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, damage to the stomach and esophagus, and dental problems. It can also affect heart function and lead to chronic fatigue. When the stomach is damaged, it can also increase the risk of stomach ulcers and acid reflux.

Can you die from bulimia?

Yes, bulimia can be life-threatening as complications can include heart problems, severe electrolyte imbalances and damage to the digestive system.

What are the psychological symptoms of bulimia?

Psychological symptoms can include distorted body image, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and in some cases self-harm.

How are teeth affected by bulimia?

The acid from repeated vomiting can erode tooth enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity, cavities and gum problems.

What are the physical signs of bulimia?

Physical signs can include swollen cheeks, scars on the backs of the hands (from teeth when vomiting), irregular periods, and sudden weight changes. Because teeth are often affected, some people claim to be able to tell if people have been vomiting a lot for periods of time.

How does bulimia affect relationships?

Bulimia can lead to isolation, as the person may feel ashamed of their behavior and avoid social situations, especially those involving food.

What is orthorexia?

Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy or clean food, which can lead to restrictive dietary habits and, in some cases, nutritional deficiencies.

Why do people get an eating disorder?

The causes of eating disorders such as bulimia are complex and can include genetic factors, psychological issues, cultural influences, and personal experiences.

How is bulimia treated?

Treatment often includes a combination of therapy, nutritional counseling, and in some cases medication. It is important to treat both the psychological and physical aspects of the disorder.

Can bulimia be prevented?

While there is no sure way to prevent bulimia, increased awareness and early intervention can help reduce the risk and severity.

Where can I find more information and support?

A psychologist or therapist can give you guidance, advice and recommendations on how to start treatment. Therefore, we recommend that you have an initial conversation with us at Lavendla about how to move towards treatment.

How can you support someone with bulimia?

Offering non-judgmental support, listening and encouraging professional help are important steps. However, it is important not to focus on food or body image when communicating.

What are the risk factors for bulimia?

Risk factors include previous eating disorders, low self-esteem, body image issues, cultural influences, and certain personality types.

Are there self-help methods for bulimia?

Self-help methods can be useful but should not replace professional treatment. They can include mindfulness, journaling, and building a healthy relationship with food and the body.

What is the function of electrolytes in the body?

Electrolytes are essential for maintaining normal body function and are involved in many important processes, including nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, fluid balance and maintaining the pH level in the body. Electrolyte imbalance is essential to support the nervous system, muscle function, fluid balance and other important physiological processes. An imbalance in electrolytes can lead to various health problems, including muscle cramps, fatigue, confusion and, in severe cases, life-threatening conditions.


Steps for managing bulimia

As bulimia is a complex and sensitive process, treatment requires understanding, patience and often professional help. Below is a list of steps that can help you or someone you know begin the process of dealing with bulimia.

Seek professional help

  • Contact a health professional: Talk to a doctor or other qualified health professional for an accurate diagnosis and guidance.
  • Psychological support: Consider therapy with a psychologist or therapist who specialises in eating disorders.

Creating a treatment plan

  • Individual plan: Work together with health professionals to create a personalised treatment plan.
  • Nutrition and health: Include aspects of nutrition and physical health in the plan.

Developing healthy eating habits

  • Balanced diet: Learn about balanced diet and create healthy eating habits.
  • Avoid triggers: Identify and avoid situations or emotions that trigger bulimic behavior.

Improve your lifestyle

  • Balanced diet: Work with a nutritionist to create a healthy and balanced diet plan.
  • Regular exercise: Integrate physical activity into your daily routine to improve both physical and mental health. However, it is important to maintain a balanced approach to exercise.

Build a supportive network

  • Family and friends: Inform family and friends about your situation to get their support.
  • Support groups: Join support groups where you can share experiences and get support from others going through similar challenges.

Managing emotions and stress

  • Stress management: Learn techniques to manage stress and anxiety. As these can often be triggers for bulimic behavior, it is an important part of healing.
  • Positive thinking: Develop positive thinking skills to combat negative thoughts related to food and body image.

Continued monitoring and adjustments

  • Regular follow-ups: Have regular meetings with your health professional to monitor and adjust the treatment plan as needed.
  • Long-term management: Understand that managing bulimia is a long-term process and be prepared for ups and downs.

Focus on self-care and self-love

  • Self-care: Prioritise time for yourself and activities that make you feel good.
  • Self-love: Work on building a healthy self-esteem and body image.

Remember that you are not alone, and seeking help is a sign of strength.

Lavendla does not offer full treatments for complex eating disorders, but you are always welcome to connect with qualified psychologists and therapists who can help you on your journey. We make the hard things easier.

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Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.