Bulimia Nervosa: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 2/26/2019

Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of secretive binge-eating followed by self-induced vomiting after eating (purging), abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise to maintain weight control. While the cause of bulimia is not fully understood, both family history and environmental factors are important.

Signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa include binge eating, compulsive behaviors (particularly related to food or eating rituals), changes in body weight, mood swings, and evidence of purging behaviors. Associated physical symptoms relate to the vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise. These can include irregular menstruation, deterioration of tooth enamel, trouble concentrating, sleep problems, muscle weakness, dry skin, stomach cramps, and thinning hair.

Causes of bulimia nervosa

The specific cause of bulimia is unknown.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/26/2019

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