Who can suffer from bulimia? Anyone, from a princess to a pauper

23.12.2019 - Articles, Eating disorders, Mental health

Bulimia nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — by eating large amounts of food with a simultaneous loss of control over the act of eating — and then purge, trying to dispose of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. Examples? Princess Diana, Jane Fonda, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Demi Lovato. But not just them. The following people are known to be or have been affected by bulimia: Geri Halliwell, Sharon Osbourne, Jordan Younger, Russell Brand, Paula Abdul, Calista Lockhart, Frank Bruni, Sally Field, Susan Dey, Katie Couric, and so on, and so forth…

Bulimia mental health disorder

Who is at risk of bulimia?

Anyone, from a princess to a pauper, can fall victim to these life-altering — and life-threatening — mental illnesses. Neighbours, friends, lovers, acquaintances — even celebrities, the people we admire as stars; the most powerful, or the most beautiful among us, are or have been afflicted. This has been confirmed by their own accounts, by experts, statistical data and scientific publications.

Bulimia is one of the most common illnesses related to eating disorders.

Information collected from different sources shows that 1.1% to 4.6% of women and 0.1% to 0.5% of men will develop symptoms characteristic of bulimia during their lives. Bulimia primarily touches groups for which a very slim figure is beneficial, such as those involving modelling or acting. The first episode of self-induced vomiting and the realisation that this is an effective method of weight control is often very important for the development of a disorder that can disrupt life for years.

The Annual Review of Clinical Psychology reveals that 50-80% of the risk for anorexia and bulimia is genetic, while Biological Psychiatry claims that 1.5% of American women suffer from bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.

Statistics confirm that the situation is bad — about 70 million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders.

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that in the United States a patient dies every 62 minutes on average as a result of complications related to eating disorders, while the mortality rate connected to this type of illnesses is the highest among all mental disorders.

Even more? Nearly 1 in 10 bulimia patients have a comorbid substance abuse disorder, usually, alcohol use and more than half of bulimia patients have comorbid anxiety disorders.

infographic on eating disorders
infographic on eating disorders


Celebrities afflicted by bulimia

Princess Diana struggled with bulimia and she spoke publicly about it. “I am certain the ultimate solution lies within the individual. But, with the help and patient nurturing given by professionals, family and friends, people suffering eating disorders can find a better way of coping with their lives,” she said.

Her speech regarding her eating disorder and personal struggles gave many people the courage to start talking about their own eating disorders. Princess Diana fought to promote knowledge of bulimia and helped bring public awareness to eating disorders.

Jane Fonda was speaking openly about eating disorders too. She revealed that she had struggled with bulimia since the age of 12, with cycles of binging, purging, and restricting. Fonda partly blames her eating disorder on how she was raised: “I was taught to think if I wanted to be loved, I had to be thin and pretty. That leads to a lot of trouble,” she said. She has campaigned to raise awareness about anorexia and bulimia. By speaking openly about her 30-year battle with eating disorders, she has become a role model for women of all ages.

Elton John had bulimia. For many years, it was difficult for him to acknowledge that he even had a problem, but in truth he needed help. He confirmed this in an interview with the American journalist Larry King. “As soon as I said those words [‘I need help’], I knew that I was going to get better, and I was determined to get better,” Elton John said.

He has also spoken about how much it helped to know that his close friend Princess Diana struggled with bulimia as well. Since then, he has embraced his body, sexual identity, and life.

Lady Gaga confessed on her site Little Monsters that she has struggled with anorexia and bulimia since the age of 15. She posted about her cycles of weight gain and loss, and shared photos. She encouraged everyone struggling with body image to seek help, saying, “It’s really hard, but… you’ve got to talk to somebody about it.”

Demi Lovato was also treated for bulimia. She said in an interview, “I lived fast and I was going to die young. I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” She has become an unofficial spokesperson for young women with eating disorders.

What characterises bulimia?

Uncontrolled attacks of hunger lead to many psychological disorders, such as anxiety or neuroses, and a variety of mood disorders. The most common response of a person suffering from the illness is an attempt to restore control over the body – through dieting, physical exercise, and self-induced vomiting. However, the guilt that accompanies bulimia leads to withdrawing from social interactions, changing life plans and often reaching for abusive substances such as drugs and alcohol.

infographic on most common symptoms of bulimia
infographic on most common symptoms of bulimia

How does bulimia affect your life? Can bulimia kill?

– In extreme cases, bulimia can even lead to death. Characteristic symptoms of bulimia include parotid gland enlargement and tooth enamel erosion.


Bulimia is the most harmful to the digestive system. As a result of fatigue and regular vomiting, the afflicted exhibit body injuries and organ damage. It can result in:

  • posterior pharyngeal wall damage,
  • gastroparesis,
  • oesophageal damage, or even rupture,
  • oesophageal and gastric erosion,
  • chronic pancreatitis,
  • posterior pharyngeal wall erosion,
  • dental caries and gingivitis,
  • parotid enlargement,
  • ulcers located on the back of the hand, as well as dry skin and stretch marks,
  • in women, bulimia can also result in amenorrhoea and fertility problems.


In order to break the vicious cycle of compulsive eating and purging, the patient must be put under a nutrition specialist’s care, supported by psychological and pharmacological therapy.

Changing the perception of the body and recognising the sources of the sickness is a complicated process, which we control at every stage at TKP. Detailed laboratory and environmental analyses help us to present a unique treatment plan and meet your personal needs. Individualised care enables flexibility in the achievement of the best possible results, always in total privacy and the maximum comfort of our luxury residential rehabilitation centre.


Are you in need of an individual interview or dedicated consultation?

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The Kusnacht Practice specialists will take care of your problem discreetly, professionally and with full commitment.

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