Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia, is a serious mental illness where people feel that they have lost control over their eating and evaluate themselves according to their body shape and weight. People with bulimia nervosa can't stick to a healthy eating pattern. They tend to binge, that is, eating a lot at once. This makes them feel guilty and out of control so they then panic and punish themselves by starving, making themselves sick, taking laxatives or over-exercising.
This behaviour can dominate daily life and lead to difficulties in relationships and social situations. Usually people hide this behaviour pattern from others and their weight is often in a healthy range. People with bulimia tend not to seek help or support very readily and can experience swings in their mood as well as feeling anxious and tense.
They may also have very low self-esteem and self harm. They may experience symptoms such as tiredness, feeling bloated, constipation, abdominal pain, irregular periods, or occasional swelling of the hands and feet.
Bulimia can result in a number of physical problems, including tooth decay, constipation and intestinal damage, as well as heart and kidney disease. Tell-tale signs of bulimia include making excuses to avoid eating in company or rushing to the lavatory after a meal.
Bulimia usually develops at a slightly older age than anorexia. In some instances, although not all, bulimia develops from anorexia.