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Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is the shortened term for an eating disorder called Bulimia Nervosa and is a form of Anorexia Nervosa

Those with Bulmia eat in binges and then purge the body of the ingested food either by self induced vomiting or excessive use of laxatives and/or diuretics.

What are signs of Bulimia?

Some early signs of Bulimia include:
  • Increased concern about weight.
  • Disgust with body shape.
  • Wearing only baggy clothes or concealing clothing.
  • Exercising excessively.
  • Being moody or angry when asked about dieting.
  • Fasting.
  • Vomiting after meals.
  • Frequent use of laxatives and diuretics.

What causes Bulimia?

There is no known cause of Bulimia. What is known is that it develops in certain stages.
  • It is often from media pressure to be thin and beautiful.
  • There may be genetic influences leading to a stronger likelihood to develop anorexia.

How common is Bulimia?

Approximately 2% of females have some form of Bulimia.

Bulimia often begins with worry about weight as a reaction to the changes in body shape and weight gain that commonly occur at puberty. Excessive dieting then leads to a dramatic weight loss. The person can lose so much weight that their health begins to suffer.

Family and whanau and friends may tell them that they have become too thin, however Bulimia sufferers are not easily convinced that they are not overweight.

How is Bulimia diagnosed?

Those with Bulimia frequently attempt to hide abnormal eating patterns.
The diagnosis of Bulimia is made when the sufferer either loses 15% of their weight or the growing child fails to acquire 85% of the minimal weight for their particular age and height. A history of excessive exercise, self induced vomiting and the overuse of laxatives and diuretics help the mental health professional make a diagnosis of Bulimia.

How is Bulimia treated?

Individual and/or family and group therapy are important for those with Bulimia. People with Bulimia are helped to develop a healthier concept of their body shape and learn to correct eating habits. The destructive nature of binging and purging is reinforced. A cognitive behavioural approach to therapy and/or medications may also be used.

Group members can offer each other valuable support in monitoring eating and weight gain and in improving self esteem.

Bulimia can be treated through outpatient services, however, when weight loss is severe, hospitalisation may be necessary.

Medications can be effective for the treatment of anxiety and/or depression in Bulimia sufferers.

The major breakthrough to treatment comes with education, when the Bulimia sufferer realises the detrimental effects Bulimia has on the body and mind and decides to resume normal eating habits.

What happens to someone with Bulimia?

Unfortunately, there have been no long-term studies focussing on the course of Bulimia. Some people respond well to psychotherapy and other treatments. Others may experience long remissions from Bulimia.

Resources in Taranaki:

Mahia Mai A Whai Tara: (Kaupapa Maori Service)
8 Warre Street, Waitara.
Tel: (06) 754 4669
Taranaki Health Child & Adolescent Service  (Mainstream)
Taranaki Base Hospital, New Plymouth.
Tel: (06) 753 7790
Fax:  (06) 753 7791

Taranaki Health Adult Mental Health Services (Mainstream)
Taranaki Base Hospital, New Plymouth
Tel: (06) 753 6139
Fax:  (06) 753 7715


The following organisations may provide assistance and support:

Eating Disorders Association,
Tel: (09) 818 9561 or (09) 627 8493
Eating Disorders Collective,
Tel: (04) 473 5900
WEDRC (Women with Eating Disorders Resource Centre)
Tel: (03) 366 7725

The following websites provide information on anorexia nervosa:

An international (Dublin) website with data on most mental illnesses, including eating disorders.
A useful NZ website with resource data on most mental illnesses, including a 24 page fact sheet on bulimia.
A useful site developed by Child & Adolescent Services, Taranaki Health, working with youth, covering many mental health issues.


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Taranaki Mental Health Sector