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Are you at risk of developing Bulimia Nervosa?

Last updated April 21, 2016

Bulimia Nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can involve both body image distortions and the compulsive desire to lose weight. Bulimia Nervosa is often characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by purging either through vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of diuretics.


Bulimia Nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can involve both body image distortions and the compulsive desire to lose weight. Bulimia Nervosa is often characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by purging either through vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of diuretics.

Developing Bulimia Nervosa is not limited by race or ethnicity, and can occur in all ages for both males and females. Recent studies have indicated however, that Bulimia Nervosa is more prone to affect females than males, despite being able to manifest in both sexes. Moreover, a prominent risk factor for developing Bulimia Nervosa is age, as Bulimia Nervosa is more commonly found in teenagers and young adults.

A typical onset for Bulimia Nervosa has been demonstrated in previous studies to be between the ages of 17 to 21 years. In addition, early onset Bulimia Nervosa has been observed in adolescents 15 years and younger. Research suggests that early onset Bulimia Nervosa due to cultural stress has a higher loading on risk factors than typical onset individuals. Deliberate self-harm and symptoms of depression among relatives is also statistically higher in individuals with early onset Bulimia Nervosa. 

As a mental health disorder, Bulimia Nervosa’s risk factors are made worse by symptoms of social anxiety and low self-esteem. Individuals that observe their health declining due to negative self-evaluations of their body image are encouraged to seek professional help in order to prevent the development of eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa. It is also important to mention that having a risk factor for Bulimia Nervosa does not necessarily indicate that an individual will develop the disorder. A risk factor increases the probability of getting the condition relative to someone without those risk factors. It is also important to note that some risk factors are more significant than others.

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
750 E Diehl Road #127 Naperville, IL 60563
Phone: (630) 577-1330
Email: anadhelp@anad.org
Website: http://www.anad.org

Mayo Clinic
200 First St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905
Phone: (507) 284-2511
Website: http://www.mayoclinic.org

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

ANAD. (n.d.). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.anad.org/?pagerd_m7bf6nfusor

Bulimia Nervosa | National Eating Disorders Association. (n.d.). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/bulimia-nervosa

Bulimia nervosa. (2016). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/dxc-20179827

Bulimia nervosa. (2016). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/manage/ptc-20179883

Bulimia: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved March 03, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000341.htm

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Fairburn, C. G., Welch, S. L., Doll, H. A., Davies, B. A., & O'Connor, M. E. (1997). Risk factors for bulimia nervosa: A community-based case-control study. Archives of General psychiatry, 54(6), 509-517.

Kendler, K. S., Walters, E. E., Neale, M. C., Kessler, R. C., Heath, A. C., & Eaves, L. J. (1995). The structure of the genetic and environmental risk factors for six major psychiatric disorders in women: Phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, bulimia, major depression, and alcoholism.Archives of general psychiatry, 52(5), 374-383.

Pope, H. G., & Hudson, J. I. (1992). Is childhood sexual abuse a risk factor for bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149(4), 455-463.

Strober, M., Freeman, R., Lampert, C., Diamond, J., & Kaye, W. (2000). Controlled family study of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: evidence of shared liability and transmission of partial syndromes. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(3), 393-401.

Kendler, K. S., MacLean, C., Neale, M., Kessler, R., Heath, A., & Eaves, L. (1991). The genetic epidemiology of bulimia nervosa. Am J Psychiatry,148(12), 1627-37.

Favaro, A., Tenconi, E., & Santonastaso, P. (2006). Perinatal factors and the risk of developing anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Archives of general psychiatry, 63(1), 82-88.

Striegel-Moore, R. H., Silberstein, L. R., & Rodin, J. (1986). Toward an understanding of risk factors for bulimia. American psychologist, 41(3), 246.

Lilenfeld, L. R., Kaye, W. H., Greeno, C. G., Merikangas, K. R., Plotnicov, K., Pollice, C., ... & Nagy, L. (1998). A controlled family study of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: psychiatric disorders in first-degree relatives and effects of proband comorbidity. Archives of general psychiatry, 55(7), 603-610.

Crow, S. J., Peterson, C. B., Swanson, S. A., Raymond, N. C., Specker, S., Eckert, E. D., & Mitchell, J. E. (2009). Increased mortality in bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry.

Slade, P. D., & Dewey, M. E. (1986). Development and preliminary validation of SCANS: A screening instrument for identifying individuals at risk of developing anorexia and bulimia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 5(3), 517-538.

Dunn, E. C., Larimer, M. E., & Neighbors, C. (2002). Alcohol and drug‐related negative consequences in college students with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 32(2), 171-178.

Fairburn, C. G., Cooper, Z., Doll, H. A., Norman, P., & O'Connor, M. (2000). The natural course of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder in young women. Archives of General psychiatry, 57(7), 659-665.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 21, 2016
Last updated: April 21, 2016

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