Bulimia is eating disorder characterized by episodes of secretive excessive eating (binge-eating) followed by drastic methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting (purging).
The disorder can also often cause the individual to exercise excessively or use large quantities laxatives in an attempt to lose weight.
The main difference between bulimia the similar eating disorder anorexia is bulimics usually maintain a healthy weight where as anorexics will gradually lose weight. Bulimics don't starve themselves in the same way as people with anorexia. Although some bulimics will often go through short periods of anorexia before resorting back to binging and purging.
The two primary symptoms of bulimia are obviously binge eating and self inducing vomiting. However, people will bulimia may also show signs of gum infections, heartburn, swollen glands or chronic constipation.
We still don't know exactly what causes bulimia but the likely factors include a fundamental genetic fault, abnormal levels of the brain chemical serotonin, emotional stress or social pressures.
There is no medical cure for bulimia but it can be effectively treated through a combination of counseling and behavioral therapy. The quicker the condition is recognized of a hold it will have taken on the patient's life and the easier treatment will be. Approximately 75% of women with bulimia fully overcome the disorder once treatment has been sought.