Eating disorders are scary things. They lurk in the shadows like thieves waiting to steal our most valuable assets – things we never thought we’d lose like emotional stability, physical health, joy, or our freedom. In this article, we share the ways in which bulimia nervosa can become a problem, and how to overcome it.

How does bulimia get in?

Bulimia nervosa, like all successful burglars, looks for vulnerabilities and waits for a chance to get a foothold. It might be through the window of comparison and self-doubt, or a door marked “overwhelmed and unsure.” It might even sneak in through excessive drinking or exercising. Once in, it thrives in all-or-nothing thinking patterns, perfectionistic standards, and impulsive decision making.

Bulimia is skilled at making us believe that we’re handing over our valuables willingly. Bit by bit, it weaponizes our desire for comfort posing as control and promising us everything we desire if only we can get our body, our eating, our hunger, to cooperate.

The cycle that bulimia nervosa creates

Bulimia feeds on the sentiment “When I have the body I dream of, then I will be happy.”

So, we try again and again to get it. We diet, cleanse, adopt a new “healthy” eating plan, and we binge.

We then spend hours in the gym, buy capsules and potions, and do whatever we can to try to get rid of it all.

Thinking this time is the last time, we are conned to give more of ourselves to bulimia. This disease has robbed us blind, and it will keep coming back for more of us.

More trips to the bathroom.

More exercise.

More medical and physical complications.

More of your time, more attention, more obsession, more compulsion, more shame, more secrecy.

Bulimia always wants more.

How do we start to recover from bulimia?

There are ways we can protect ourselves from this thievery and stand up to this criminal.

We can take our mental health seriously

A study of more than 2,400 individuals hospitalized for an eating disorder found that 97 percent had one or more co-occurring conditions, including:

  • 94 percent had co-occurring mood disorders, mostly major depression
  • 56 percent were diagnosed with anxiety disorders
  • 20 percent had obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • 22 percent had post-traumatic stress disorder
  • 22 percent had an alcohol or substance use disorder

It’s also important to note that between 54 and 81 percent of people with bulimia are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and between 36 and 50 percent of people with bulimia are also diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

Working with a physician and/or other mental health professionals can help us manage our mental health issues. All mental illnesses have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components. But we don’t have to suffer in silence. There are medicines and strategies to keep symptoms from overtaking your life.

Bulimia takes advantage of the places you aren’t paying attention to, so when you take care to treat your depression, anxiety, or addiction, you’re simultaneously making it harder for bulimia to take hold.

We can learn new coping skills

Life can be messy, hard, and confusing. We must find non-destructive ways of dealing with the rough patches and build our days around solid wellness practices.

Have a routine. Consistency and structure can help prevent acting impulsively, interrupt compulsive behavior, manage anxiety, and create boundaries in the realms of food and drink, relationships, exercise, and lots of other areas.

Try mindfulness. As much as you can, pay attention to what is happening right here, right now. Being intentionally mindful has a positive impact on every area of your life. There are apps, books, videos, and groups on every media platform to help you grow in your mindfulness practice. There is bound to be one that resonates with you, so give a few a try and see what works best for you.

We can get specialized bulimia treatment

Find a support group. Support groups for mental health issues, eating disorders, personal relationships, and addictions help millions of people around the world live happier, healthier lives. An internet search or a call to your primary care provider or social service office can provide you with options in your area. Many support groups hold meetings over video platforms so with an Internet connection and device you can get the help you need.

NEDA offers call, text or chat helpline options. They also have a 24/7 Crisis Text Line.

MEDA offers weekly support groups.

National Alliance for Eating Disorders has a guide to find local support groups.

There are also resources available at Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Smart Recovery, among others.

We’re here to help

We know finding care can be tough. That’s why Walden is here for you. If you are concerned that you, or a loved one, may have bulimia, please reach out by completing the form on this page or email us at

Stephanie Haines, M.Ed., CHESStephanie Haines, M.Ed., CHES (she/her/hers) has been providing school communities with specialized addiction prevention education since 1999 and has taught students of all ages in most U.S. states and more than 25 countries across five continents. After completing her graduate work at Plymouth State University’s Eating Disorders Institute in 2013, Stephanie joined Walden Behavioral Care as their Prevention Education Specialist, creating an eating disorders prevention curriculum designed for use in school communities.


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