Bulimia nervosa, often referred to as just bulimia, is an eating disorder and a mental health condition. There is no single cause of bulimia nervosa. It is thought to develop from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.
These are some of the factors that can increase someone's risk of developing bulimia nervosa:
- Genetic factors: having a parent or sibling with an eating disorder
- Childhood trauma: such as physical or sexual abuse
- Personality: low self-esteem, perfectionism or impulsiveness
- Stress: life events or chronic stress can trigger the onset of bulimia
- Mental disorders: such as depression, personality disorder or addictions.
Bulimia nervosa usually starts with a feeling of unhappiness about body image and weight. This is very common in today’s world and many people feel pressure from society and the media to be thin.
Before bulimia nervosa begins there is often a period of excessive dieting. However, the wrong kind of dieting can cause uncontrollable hunger and lead to binge eating. Feelings of guilt and shame after binge eating then cause the person to try and compensate by purging (inducing vomiting or using laxatives).
Last reviewed: July 2017