What is Bulimia

Good nutrition is an important part of preventing chronic disease and helping your body keep up with the challenges of daily life. If you have an eating disorder such as bulimia, your body may not be getting the nutrients you need to perform physically and mentally. Your primary care physician can help you address the problem.

Understanding Bulimia

What is bulimia, exactly? Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by periods of binge eating and purging. Binge eating refers to eating excessive amounts of food. Vomiting, laxative abuse, and other purging methods are then used to avoid gaining weight. Bulimia is much more common in women than in men, especially in adolescents and young adults. If you struggle with bulimia, it is important to learn the facts about eating disorders and how they can affect your body.


Scientists do not know the exact cause of bulimia. It is likely the result of a combination of social, cultural, or psychological factors.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of bulimia differ from one person to another, so talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your eating habits. Some people with the disorder experience episodes of binge eating several times each day. Concealing your behavior from friends and family is another sign you may have bulimia. After binge eating, you might use laxatives or water pills, force yourself to vomit, or get an excessive amount of exercise to avoid gaining weight. If you are concerned about a friend, you might notice your friend exercising compulsively, buying large amounts of food, using diet pills or laxatives, or always going to the bathroom immediately after eating.

Physical Examination

Untreated bulimia can have serious effects on the body and the mind. Repeated vomiting can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and can wear away the enamel of your teeth, leading to tooth decay. This is why it is so important to discuss bulimia with a medical professional. Your doctor can perform a physical examination and order tests to make sure you are not dehydrated.


Your primary care physician can provide information about the medical complications of bulimia and offer appropriate treatment. Treatment of eating disorders requires a team approach, and your primary care doctor can make referrals to other professionals who specialize in treating eating disorders, including therapists, dietitians, and psychiatrists. In some cases, eating disorders require more intensive treatment at a residential facility, and a medical assessment can help determine if such treatment is indicated. Many people with bulimia can get treatment on an outpatient basis, so it is possible to continue working or attending school while you get help for your eating disorder.

Collaborative Care

At Chapel Hill Primary Care, your well-being is our top priority. When you have a strong relationship with your primary care provider, you have the opportunity to get the information you need about living a healthier life. If you have something you want to discuss with your physician, use our patient care portal to schedule an appointment that suits your schedule. Someone will confirm you appointment and give you all the information you need for your visit.