What causes bulimia? The truth.

Richard Kerr's picture

Understanding the causes of eating disorders, and specifically what causes bulimia is a very difficult task.  

If you were to ask 100 people with bulimia what caused their bulimia then you would more than likely get 100 very different answers back.

This is because bulimia is a WORLD OF CONFUSION.

No one seems to know what’s going on.

In fact, everywhere we look we hear different theories, treatments and attitudes. Searching for answers in text books doesn’t seem to help much either.  

You have undoubtedly seen the same message repeated over and over:  

Biological, environmental, and psychological factors are associated with the development of bulimia nervosa.

But what does that really mean?

Basically it means that the reason you have bulimia may be:
Due to the way your body works
B. Or the way your mind works
C. Or the way you live your life
D. Or a combination of all of the above.

It’s another way of saying:

Bulimia could be caused by anything really.


Researchers often use the term “no conclusive evidence,” when talking about the causes of bulimia so if the medical industry can’t figure out exactly what causes bulimia, what chance have we got?

Let's talk about what we do know...

The medical establishment has labeled bulimia a mental illness. However, at Bulimia Help we do NOT believe this to be true and as controversial as that idea may be we’re not the only ones!

One of the most successful eating disorder treatment centers IN THE WORLD agree that “there is no evidence available to support the assertion that eating disorders are a consequence of a mental illness” (Mandometer.com)

In fact, much of what we know would argue against it...

Yes people with bulimia do often exhibit symptoms of mental illness but if bulimia was really a symptom of an underlying mental illness then we would expect:

  • Mental health symptoms to arrive before the eating problems (they don't)
  • The therapies that work on mental health problems should work on eating disorder patients (they don't)
  • Limiting food intake not to be sufficient to induce the mental health symptoms (it is)
  • Normalising food intake enough would not be sufficient to eliminate the mental health symptoms (but it is!)

In reality a large amount of evidence points to the fact that bulimia is related to something very, very, simple indeed...

You are not eating enough food. Not convinced? Let’s take a look at what some of our members had to say:

There is no dark, hidden, abusive, past to my life, I literally just went on a diet, a serious diet that spiralled out of control, which has ruined over 3 years of my life! (Bulimia Help Member, 2010).

I am relieved that I am not mad, I am not losing it, and my body is simply reacting to the restrictive eating I have continually put it through. I am not denying there may be underlying reasons, but a lot of them I think my bulimia has prolonged and made worse. (Bulimia Help Member, 2009).

I started structured eating and one by one the eating disordered thoughts are slowly dissipating. (Bulimia Help Member, 2009).


I’ve been a member of this site for almost two years now and I am yet to meet one single person who doesn’t mention going through some kind of restrictive phase before the onset of their bulimia. (Catherine Liberty, BRS Coach & Program Manager).


For those who say bulimia is not about the food, we say it’s ALL ABOUT FOOD.

  • Of course there can be underlying psychological issues and enviromental factors that may lead someone to restrict their food and subsequently develop bulimia in the first place - but you will be much more able to deal with those original issues once you remove bulimia from your life.
  • We also agree that there may be genetic traits that mean certain people are more likely to develop bulimia than others.

But we stand by the fact that that people would not develop bulimia if they had not – at some point restricted their food intake.

In the bulimia recovery system we show our members how all of the psychological symptoms of bulimia can be directly related to food restriction.

(remember even people who binge on a lot of food are still nutritionally restricting if they purge) and we also show how a diet can turn into an eating disorder in just 10 steps.

Better still, because we know the physical causes of bulimia we know the exact steps that you need to take in order to recover.

A lot of people find that re-balancing their bodies restoring adequate levels of nutrition over time completely cures them of their bulimia.


The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


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