In Bulimia

Unmasking Bulimia: History, Insights, and Support

Welcome to this informative blog post where we take a deep dive into the world of Bulimia. We’ll explore its history, definition, and some eye-opening statistics.

Let’s kick things off by acknowledging an essential insight from my therapist:

“Eating disorders exist along a continuum.”

This continuum spans from severe cases, such as the well-documented struggles of individuals like Karen Carpenter, to those who may not outwardly “appear sick” but are silently battling eating disorders, like Bulimia. It’s crucial to understand that everyone, regardless of the severity of their condition, deserves help and support.

A Glimpse into History:

Eating disorders have roots that stretch far back in time, with practices like food denial for purification dating back to medieval times. The idea of food deprivation as a spiritual practice was prevalent among women. Anorexia Nervosa gained official recognition in 1952, marking a significant turning point in the understanding of eating disorders.

But what about Bulimia Nervosa? It was initially considered a variation of Anorexia until British psychiatrist Gerald Russell differentiated it in 1979. While purging practices existed in ancient societies, modern Bulimia was officially acknowledged in 1980, making it the second eating disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Since then, the DSM has expanded to include eight recognized eating disorders. Remember, though, that the concept of a spectrum remains relevant, and seeking help is always essential.

Today’s Understanding of Bulimia:

Bulimia is characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes, followed by compensatory behaviors aimed at preventing weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative misuse, fasting, or excessive exercise. These behaviors must occur at least twice a week for three months, and self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.


Eating disorders and body image concerns are prevalent in society. According to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating:

  • Approximately 108 million Americans are on diets.
  • 9 out of 10 women in the US are dissatisfied with their appearance.
  • 81% of 10-year-old girls fear being fat.
  • Adolescent girls are more afraid of gaining weight than getting cancer.
  • 2 out of 5 women would trade years of their lives for weight loss.
  • 97% of women experience daily “I hate my body” moments.

Now, let’s delve into statistics specific to Bulimia:

  • Approximately 5% of US females (4.7 million) have experienced Bulimia in their lifetime.
  • For men, the prevalence is 0.05%, equivalent to 1.5 million.
  • Roughly 4% of college-aged women grapple with Bulimia.
  • Bulimia can affect individuals as young as six and senior citizens.
  • 50% of people who had Anorexia will develop Bulimia.
  • 70% of people with Bulimia also have depression and/or anxiety.
  • 25% of people with Bulimia exhibit signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Additional Insights: Dieting plays a significant role:

  • People who diet are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
  • Those who diet frequently are eighteen times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
  • Surprisingly, individuals with Bulimia are often of average or above-average weight.

While these historical insights, research findings, and statistics provide valuable information, it’s essential to remember that eating disorders, particularly Bulimia, often remain concealed. Seeking help is a vital step in the journey to recovery, and it’s possible that the actual numbers may be higher than reported due to the secrecy and ambivalence surrounding these disorders. If you or someone you know is grappling with these issues, please seek professional support. You do not have to be alone in your path to healing and recovery, and help is readily available.

Resource credit:


With Love & Light,

Sarah Lee

Certified Eating Disorder Coach, CCIEDC 1008

Website: Sarah Lee Recovery

Bulimia Recovery Course: Conquering Bulimia

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