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

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.