Eating: Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Food and drink are, in addition to the need for safety and sleep, the most essential basic human needs. When we are very hungry or thirsty, it overrides even the need for security, and we are able to steal a loaf of bread. But under normal circumstances we can limit the basic necessity of a good meal to about three times a day. For some, however, the need for food is an obsession with which they wake up and go to bed. Their lives are constantly dominated by calories, eating, gaining weight, losing weight and often gaining weight again. Food is then a constant source of attention, tension and anxiety.

Bulimia nervosa

People who suffer from binge eating, which is what bulimia nervosa actually is, are constantly binge eating. They devour anything edible without actually tasting it, and don’t stop until it’s gone. During such a bout of gluttony, they often eat for hours at a time and completely lose control of themselves. Then they want to vomit or use diuretics or laxatives in order not to gain weight. What is not realized is that although such pills help remove fluid, the calories do not leave the body. After a binge, a period of fanatic dieting often follows. Binge eating is often characterized by a fixed pattern:

  • The sufferer of the condition bulimai nervosa starts by fantasizing about tasty food.
  • He/she then goes shopping and displays the purchased food at home.
  • Finally, the food is eaten until everything is gone.

As a result of shame, the binges remain strictly hidden from the outside world. Those who suffer from this eating disorder derive their sense of self-esteem from their strong will to maintain their weight or maintain a certain eating pattern. But time and again their intention to eat normally from now on fails. After every binge they feel weak and guilty, while the shame is intense. People who suffer from bulimia nervosa often weigh a normal number of kilograms, although this can change significantly within a short period of time. But usually the problem is not visible to others on the outside.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

As with bulimia nervosa, sufferers of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) often have violent binges. They then consume significant amounts of food, which is often very high in calories. Unlike bulimia patients, they do not try to get rid of it through laxatives or vomiting. This can cause them to become extremely fat. This makes this eating disorder much more visible to the outside world. In addition to psychological issues, the shame that arises can also lead to even more binge eating.


Eating disorders are usually caused by a combination of social, psychological and biological factors.

  • Social factors include: a reaction to changes during puberty, physical violence, sexual abuse such as incest. Traumatic experiences are a particular risk factor for bulimic patients. The example of the successful slim woman can also lead to eating disorders.
  • Psychological factors or personal characteristics have a major influence on the development of eating disorders. Such as lack of self-confidence, negative self-image, fear of rejection, too perfectionistic. But it is also difficult to show emotions and feelings of depression are also common in people with an eating disorder.
  • The biological cause is often heredity, because there are indications that certain families are more likely to suffer from eating disorders. Diabetes or depression can also lead to eating problems.


Living with an eating disorder

People with an eating disorder do not want to make their problem public and therefore often become socially isolated. Parties, etc., but also friends are avoided. Feelings of loneliness, powerlessness and depression arise. Moreover, their eating behavior also consumes the necessary attention and time.
The physical consequences are also not bad. The metabolism and hormone balance are disrupted. Stomach and intestinal complaints may arise. The vomiting and laxatives lead to dizziness, anemia, fatigue and weakness. The stomach stretches, making it increasingly difficult to satiate the feeling of hunger. The teeth can be damaged by acid in the vomit. Salivary glands can become inflamed, resulting in pain and hoarseness. Laxing and vomiting can also result in potassium deficiency, causing liver function, kidney and heart rhythm disorders. Bulimia sufferers often have suicidal thoughts.

Tips for people with eating disorders

  • Recognize that you are struggling with an eating problem.
  • Talk about it with trusted people close to you.
  • Contact fellow sufferers for moral support.
  • Consult information on the internet or in the library.
  • Keep a diary and record what and when you eat.
  • Also write down the thoughts and feelings you had at the time of eating. This helps to gain insight.



Therapy often helps to correct or reduce the problem. Learning a healthy diet is part of this. In addition, negative self-image, sadness and tensions are discussed. Sometimes medications (antidepressants) are offered to support the therapy.

Information and help

If you seriously want to change your diet, see your doctor first. If necessary, he or she will refer you to a GGZ (mental health care institution) or a psychologist, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Ask for an expert who specializes in eating disorders.

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