Traits of Those That Overcome Bulimia

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How do people who overcome bulimia nervosa do it?!

It may seem impossible from where you stand now, but recovery from bulimia can be achieved.

This blog is part of a series that examines traits specific to anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder that can be helpful in overcoming these diseases and living a happier, healthier, life.

Some of the traits helpful in achieving eating disorder recovery are similar no matter the subtype. For example, individuals with both bulimia and anorexia are found to have elevated “harm-avoidance,” therefore, the tips discussed in the first blog of this series apply to bulimia as well (see Personality Traits of Those That Overcome Anorexia).

However, it is important to remember that bulimia is its own, unique, disorder and, with that, come unique traits that can be honed to foster recovery such as self-control and novelty seeking.


Self-control may be confusing because the first blog in this series discussed the need for those with anorexia to loosen their need for control.

This represents one of the most significant differences between anorexia and bulimia. Individuals with anorexia are found to have a high need for self-control and low impulsivity, whereas those with bulimia show higher levels of impulsivity and have a tendency to act when faced with negative emotions rashly [1].

This increased tendency to engage in irresponsible and impulsive behaviors often are what lead the person to binge and purge.

Learning to fight this need for drastic and impulsive actions can help someone with bulimia gain a stronger sense of control which they need.

Bulimia sufferers needing the self-control to overcome their eating disorder may be helped by completing an ABC (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) Chart.

When the person engages in bulimic symptoms such as binging or purging, they may use this chart to slow down and track what happened. What precipitated the behavior, what did the person do, and what happened afterward?

This can help individuals better understand their triggers, putting them one step ahead of the disorder so that they can control their reaction.


Woman sitting down next to a lake

Similar to a bulimic sufferer’s increased impulsivity, they also show elevated levels of novelty-seeking.

This trait is associated with those continually seeking new and exciting activities in order to feel the surge of dopamine and adrenaline that is released by doing so [2].

Researchers theorize, via the psychobiological theory, that this increase in novelty-seeking behaviors occurs because individuals with bulimia have higher sensitivity to reward [3].

These people do not regulate the dopamine in their brain as others typically do, which results in the person changing their behaviors to achieve those feelings of reward.

Now, there is nothing you can do about how your brain regulates or processes any neurons. However, it is possible to find activities that bring you feelings of reward that aren’t harmful or extreme.

Running, rock climbing, performing on stage, or playing trivia can all result in the same rush of dopamine and rewarding feelings.

People that overcome bulimia don’t rewire their brain; they merely find healthier alternatives to binging and purging that bring them joy!

The next and final installment in this series address what traits are unique to binge eating disorder (BED) and how they can be repurposed to achieve recovery!

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1]: [1] Fischer, S., Smith, G. T., Anderson, K. G. (2002). Clarifying the role of impulsivity in bulimia nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33, 406-411.
[2] Bergland, C. (2013). The perils of novelty seeking. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 20 January 2018 from
[3] Harrison, A. et al. (2010). Sensitivity to reward and punishment in eating disorders. Psychiatry Research, 177, 1-11.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on April 30, 2018.
Reviewed on April 30, 2018 by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

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