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Bulimia Nervosa in Adolescents

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

Bulimia is an eating disorder. You binge eat and then vomit, use laxatives, starve yourself, or exercise for hours to prevent weight gain. You do this often, at least 1 time each week for several months.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Healthcare providers will check your vital signs.

Vital signs include blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. The providers will also ask about your pain.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Meals and bathroom use:

A healthcare provider will provide support and supervision as you learn to eat normal, healthy meals. You may be allowed to use the bathroom only when a healthcare provider is present.


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.

Physical activity:

You will be weighed regularly to find out if you are gaining, losing, or maintaining your weight. Limited amounts of physical activity will be part of your daily routine. A healthcare provider will help you learn ways other than exercise to relieve stress.


  • Blood tests will show if you are getting enough iron, calcium, and other nutrients.
  • Urine tests may be used to check for signs of dehydration.
  • Bone density pictures may show bone loss that bulimia can cause. Your risk for bone loss is higher if you are female and no longer have a monthly period.

  • An EKG may be used to check your heart's electrical activity. Bulimia can lead to heart rhythm problems.


  • 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 may help control your mood swings and decrease aggression or irritability.
  • Antinausea medicine may be used to prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • Vitamin or mineral supplements may be needed if your nutrient levels are low because of bulimia.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options


  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help you change your thoughts about food, weight gain, and self-worth. A therapist will teach you how to identify negative thoughts and beliefs and replace them with positive thoughts and beliefs. You will also learn new ways to cope with events that trigger bulimia.
  • Group therapy, family therapy, or a support group can help you talk with others who also have bulimia. 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.


  • Without treatment, bulimia is likely to be a long-term condition. Many of the risks of bulimia can be life-threatening. You can develop congestive heart failure if you use ipecac to make yourself vomit. Vomiting can make your electrolytes (calcium, sodium, potassium) too high or too low. This could cause your heart to stop.
  • The acid in vomit may erode the enamel on your teeth and cause cavities and gum disease. Repeated vomiting can also cause heartburn, acid reflux, and damage to your esophagus. If you abuse laxatives, your bowels could stop working. You could need rectal surgery or a colostomy bag. Your bones could fail to develop fully, and you could have weak bones or bone fractures.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.

Learn more about Bulimia Nervosa

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Symptoms and treatments

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.