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Bulimia Nervosa


Bulimia is an eating disorder. You binge eat and then vomit, use laxatives, starve yourself, or exercise for hours to prevent weight gain. This behavior happens often, usually at least 2 times a week for several months.


Follow up with your primary healthcare provider as directed:

You may need blood tests after you start taking medicine for bulimia. These tests check how much medicine is in your blood. Your primary healthcare provider will use the results of these tests to decide the right amount of medicine for you. You may need to have blood tests more than once. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants called SSRIs are usually used to treat bulimia. You may need this medicine even if you are not depressed. An SSRI gives your brain more of a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin may help you focus on other things and think less about weight and food.
  • Anticonvulsants: This medicine may help control your mood swings and decrease aggression or irritability.
  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
  • Vitamins: You may need vitamin and mineral supplements if your nutrient levels are low because of bulimia.


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A therapist will help you change your thoughts about food, weight gain, and self-worth. You will learn how to identify negative thoughts and beliefs and replace them with positive thoughts and beliefs. CBT also teaches you new ways to cope with events that trigger bulimia.
  • Group therapy, family therapy, or a support group: Group therapy is a meeting with other people who also have bulimia. Family therapy is a meeting with a therapist and your family members. Overeaters Anonymous, Eating Disorders Anonymous, or another support group may help prevent a relapse in the future.
  • Nutrition therapy: You will meet with a dietitian to talk about nutrition and develop a healthy meal plan. It is important to eat 3 to 5 structured meals a day to reduce the urge to binge. You might need to learn how to prepare healthy food. You might also need to relearn what it feels like when you are hungry and full. You may be asked to keep a food diary and bring it to future visits.

Care for your mouth:

Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth with fluoride mouthwash or baking soda after you vomit to help prevent cavities. Choose toothpaste made for sensitive teeth if your tooth enamel has been damaged by vomiting. Suck on tart candies to relieve swollen salivary glands.

Prevent constipation:

Drink plenty of water and eat foods high in fiber. Treat constipation with a laxative that contains polyethylene glycol 3350, or use glycerin suppositories. Do not use stimulant laxatives, because they can damage your bowels.

Manage stress:

Take a break and rest for 30 minutes every day. Try different ways to reduce stress, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, or spiritual development.

For support and more information:

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:
  • The National Women's Health Information Center
    8270 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive
    Fairfax , VA 22031
    Phone: 1- 800 - 994-9662
    Web Address:

Contact your primary healthcare provider if:

  • You are constipated.
  • You have tingling in your hands or feet.
  • You have pain in your teeth, mouth, or gums.
  • You have new pain in your abdomen.
  • Your monthly period is very light or has stopped completely.
  • You are planning to get pregnant, in order to develop a safe eating plan.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You want to harm or kill yourself.
  • Your muscles feel weak, and you have pain and stiffness.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have pain when you swallow, or very bad pain in your chest or abdomen.
  • You vomit blood or see blood in your bowel movements.
  • Your heart is beating very fast or fluttering, or you feel dizzy or faint.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.