Bulimia Nervosa Causes and Dangers

The exact causes of bulimia nervosa are not clearly identified yet but specialist think of a few possible causes and according to them it’s most probably a combination of factors. Anyway, the pattern varies from person to person and the relation between the factors that lead to bulimia seems to be very complex.

Causes of Bulimia Nervosa

Media and Social Standards:

As people with bulimia are preoccupied with their appearance and body weight, media is blamed very often for portraying the extreme slimness as the ideal of beauty. And most often it’s not just the media. It’s a social standard and especially in boys bulimia nervosa might develop after the boys are bullied for being overweight.

Also many times bulimia nervosa might start with a restrictive diet, just like binge eating disorder. And people might get into a restrictive diet when they want to look better and be slimmer an thinner.


Studies suggest that it is 4 times more likely to develop bulimia nervosa if you have a close relative with this eating disorder. Therefore a genetic factor might be related to the development of bulimia nervosa.

Emotional and Psychological Factors:

Psychological problems that might be involved in developing bulimia nervosa include anxiety disorders, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), personality disorder or PTSD.

Bulimia nervosa was also linked with depression as many people might try to find relief in binge eating. Then the people try to compensate by purging and the vicious cycles develops.

Low self-esteem has also been linked with bulimia nervosa. People with bulimia often think that losing weight will help them cope with the lower opinion of themselves.

Stressful events such as leaving home, getting married, divorce or other life-changing events might also trigger bulimia nervosa.


The time of puberty is a difficult period and many young people become more aware of their body. And if they feel they have nothing to say, teenagers might resort to bulimia.


Studies regarding the prevalence of bulimia nervosa proved to be inconsistent as many of them focused on hospital patients, university or high-school students.

But it seems people from cities and developed countries are affected most often. Women are much more likely to develop bulimia nervosa than men. About 90% of the people with bulimia nervosa are women.

Bulimia nervosa affects around 1-3% of the women aged 16-40 years. The recent statistics show a significant increase in the last years.

Some time ago it was thought that Caucasian girls are most likely to be diagnosed with bulimia nervosa but recent studies proved that Afro-American girls are 50% more likely to develop bulimia nervosa than white girls.

Also it seem girls who are involved in certain specific activities such as cheerleading, modelling, diving, figure skating, swimming, gymnastics, dance or other activities where a slim physique is idealized are more likely to develop bulimia nervosa.

Bulimia Nervosa in Men

Most often bulimia develops in women but a small percent of people affected are men. Most often men develop bulimia nervosa due to specific preoccupations such as dancing, athletics, bodybuilding or horseracing.

Another reason why boys might develop bulimia nervosa is because they might be bullied for being overweight.


The compensatory behavior has very dangerous effects. The frequent vomiting might lead to rupture of the esophagus. Dental health might be affected by the frequent vomiting and tooth staining and decay are common among people with bulimia nervosa.

Rupture of the esophagus or inflammation is possible due the same vomiting habits.

Because of frequent binge eating episode people with bulimia nervosa might suffer from gastric ruptures.


Other consequences of the habits associated with bulimia nervosa include:

  • dehydration
  • constipation
  • infertility
  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • osteoporosis
  • rectal bleeding
  • tremor
  • fainting spells
  • weakness
  • infertility
  • diarrhea
  • stomach ulcers
  • dental erosions
  • cardiac arrest
  • death
  • infections of the urinary tract
  • dry mouth
  • cracked lips
  • kidney failure
  • depression and anxiety
  • alcohol and/or drugs abuse
  • rectal prolapse

When fingers or other objects are used to trigger the gag-reflex lacerations of the lining of the throat and the mouth are common. Another sign of self-induced vomiting might be puffy chipmunk cheeks.

People with eating disorder should seek the specialist help of a trained specialist such as a nutritionist, psychiatrist or other mental health specialist as soon as possible as symptoms might get worse in time.

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