Like anorexia and binge eating, bulimia is a serious eating disorder.


Like anorexia and binge eating, bulimia is a serious eating disorder. It is marked by episodes of binge eating, followed by deliberate vomiting, using laxatives or fasting to avoid weight gain. The causes are family-related and/or psychological in nature. More than 90% of cases concern young women. Family members should be observant, raise awareness of the topic and convince those affected to go for treatment.


  • Episodes of binge eating
    • Eating large amounts of high-calorie food within a short time
  • Methods to avoid weight gain
    • Vomiting after eating, usually self-induced
    • At times, fasting
    • Misuse of laxatives and diuretics or appetite suppressants
    • Diarrhoea
  • Consequences of vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Inflamed cracks in the corners of the mouth
    • Inflammation of the gums, oesophagus and salivary glands
    • Tooth decay, caries
  • Physical symptoms
  • Mood swings
  • Social withdrawal

Causes and treatment


  • Family influence/conflict
  • Genetic factors
  • Psychological problems
    • Childhood trauma
    • Dysfunctional social relationships
    • Feelings of inferiority
    • Debilitating pressure to succeed
    • Exaggerated ideal of being slim
    • Stress
    • Depression
    • Personality disorder
    • Obsessive compulsive and anxiety disorders

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Conversation
  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
Possible therapies
  • Psychotherapy (first choice: cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • Inpatient treatment with individual and family therapy, if necessary
  • Social counselling
  • Nutritional counselling
  • Treatment depending on the symptoms
    • E.g. dentist
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Antidepressants

What can I do myself?

  • Family members
    • Don't hesitate to address the problem if you have any suspicions
    • Important: patients hide their illness for a long time
  • Develop an understanding of the personal situation (basis for treatment)
  • Try to find help
    • Confide in family members/friends
    • Establish contact with a doctor (family doctor, psychiatrist)
    • Centre of expertise for eating disorders

When to see a doctor?

  • Regular episodes of binge eating
  • Measures to avoid weight gain (vomiting, medication, etc.) after bingeing
  • Understanding/acceptance of own disease
  • Pain/burning in the mouth and oesophagus
  • “Swollen cheeks” (inflammation of parotid glands)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dentist: tooth decay, toothache, etc.

Further information

Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Ernährung SGE (Swiss Society for Nutrition)

Selbsthilfe Schweiz (Self-Help Support Switzerland)

Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ess-Störungen AES (Association for Eating Disorders)


bulimia, bulimia nervosa

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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