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The 4 types of bulimia and their characteristics

The 4 types of bulimia and their characteristics

October 28, 2020

Bulimia is one of the most well-known eating disorders, although some people confuse it with anorexia. Now, to understand well what is its nature It must be clarified that there are different types of bulimia , and not a homogenous diagnostic category.

Next we will see what these types of bulimia are and what their characteristics are. But first, let's start with the basics.

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What is bulimia?

Bulimia is a feeding disorder characterized by bingeing and purging phases of what has been eaten or compensatory behaviors. It is associated with a strong emotional discomfort, damage to health and a behavior dynamic based on impulsivity, since you lose control over what you do and sacrifice long-term projects simply because you live in a spiral of bingeing and purging, moments of anxiety and strong sadness associated with a low self-esteem.


Unlike anorexia, bulimia usually appears between 18 and 25 years of age and, moreover, is more typical of people who are impulsive and prone to addiction than of perfectionists and planners.

  • Related article: "5 differences between anorexia and bulimia"

Phases of this disorder

The phases of bulimia are the following:

1. Binge

Is the intake of a lot of food and drink to satisfy an impulse . In addition, normally the foods that are eaten have a high caloric load. Appears abruptly and under a feeling of loss of control, since, among other things, you try to eat as much food in the minimum time possible, filling your mouth and chewing little.


The frequency with which these episodes occur is very variable, and can go from once every several weeks to several times a day. This phase It is common in all types of bulimia .

2. The purge and compensatory rituals

After the binge appears a feeling of guilt and reactions aimed at preventing weight gain . Normally the purge is to induce vomiting by inserting the fingers in the mouth, but in certain cases it may be the use of laxatives. Compensatory behaviors, such as exercising a lot or trying to fasten, are also common.

It is believed that this "ritual" is a consequence of the cognitive dissonance generated by the conflict between ideas (I do not want to get fat but I have binge) and a history of contingencies that have reinforced this action.

3. Surveillance status

After these phases the person remains in a state of concern and vigilance , a stage associated with a feeling of discomfort. The state of vigilance helps to feed rumination and make recurrent thoughts appear more frequently.


On the other hand, this condition makes attention constantly return to the memory of the experiences linked to the disorder, with which everything that is done is conditioned by the way in which the person is positioned before this problem.

The types of bulimia

Once we have seen the main characteristics of the disorder, let's move on to types of bulimia. Are two: Purging bulimia and non-purging bulimia .

1. Purging or purging bulimia

This type of bulimia is characterized by being accompanied by a purging phase.

It usually takes place in private, but you do not plan too much and it also obeys an impulse . In this case, it is a desperate attempt to reverse what has been done and return to the situation before binge eating, although its effects are also harmful, because stomach acids damage the cells of the duct that leads to the mouth and wears out the tooth enamel.

Another behavior that characterizes purging bulimia is the fact of resorting to diuretics and laxatives , something that also has its associated risks and in any case does not prevent a good part of the calories ingested from entering the body.

2. Bulimia non-purging

In this type of bulimia after the binge there is no purge, but a compensatory behavior. Unlike the other method, here it is assumed that what has been eaten will be processed by the digestive system, and therefore do not resort to provoked vomiting nor diuretics or laxatives. However, actions are taken to compensate for this calorie intake, such as doing a lot of cardiovascular exercise or fasting for long periods.

The dangers related to non-nervous bulimia are, mainly, the possible cuts of digestion, the overuse of muscle groups or cardiovascular accidents, as well as the danger of fasting for too many hours (more than 24 hours can be harmful) and / or become dehydrated by attempts to drink little and not have water at hand.

According to the degree of obesity

Bulimia can also be classified into two types according to the profile of the people who suffer it .

3. Bulimia associated with obesity

In these cases, the person is overweight to a greater or lesser degree, and feels bad about it. Your identity is already linked to that physical appearance , and that makes their self-esteem very low.

4. Bulimia associated with variable weight

In this type of bulimia, the body weight of the patients goes up and down as if it were a yo-yo . This means that many of these people can continue believing that they do not have a problem that should be treated by professionals because, although they feel bad, their true identity is that of their version with less weight.

The fact of being frequently with low volume and less fat makes them believe that this is "their essence" and that they will return to it at any time without therapeutic help. It is one of the types of bulimia most reluctant to cause a visit to a doctor or psychologist.

  • Related article: "Psychology and Nutrition: the importance of emotional feeding"

Bulimia and Binge Eating in Teens: What We Know and What To Do (October 2020).


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