Factors that increase your risk of bulimia may include:

  • Being female. Girls and women are more likely to have bulimia than boys and men are.
  • Age. Bulimia often begins in the late teens or early adulthood.
  • Biology. People with first-degree relatives (siblings, parents or children) with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder, suggesting a possible genetic link. It's also possible that a deficiency in the brain chemical serotonin may play a role. And, being overweight as a child or teen may increase the risk.
  • Psychological and emotional issues. Psychological and emotional problems, such as anxiety disorder or low self-esteem, can contribute to eating disorders. People with bulimia may feel negatively about themselves. Triggers for bingeing can include stress, poor body self-image, food, boredom and restrictive dieting. In some cases, traumatic events and environmental stress may be contributing factors.
  • Media and societal pressure. The media, such as TV and fashion magazines, frequently feature a parade of skinny models and actors. These images seem to equate thinness with success and popularity. But whether the media merely reflect social values or actually drive them isn't clear.
  • Sports, work or artistic pressures. Athletes, actors, dancers and models are at a higher risk of eating disorders. Coaches and parents may inadvertently raise the risk by encouraging young athletes to lose weight, maintain a low weight and restrict eating for better performance.
April 29, 2015

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.