Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. Approximately one to three percent of adolescents and young adults develop bulimia nervosa, of which 90 percent are female. Bulimia nervosa is marked by alternating cycles of food restriction and episodes of overeating-characterized by feeling out of control whilst eating- (binge eating), and extreme measures to prevent weight gain (e.g., fasting and/or self-induced vomiting, laxative/diuretic or diet pill use). Similar to patients with anorexia nervosa, individuals with bulimia nervosa suffer from concerns with body image; however, they are typically at a normal weight. DSM-5 requires binge-eating and purging to be present at least once a week for 3 months to reach threshold for a full diagnosis.

Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms

Symptoms of bulimia nervosa may include:

  • consuming large amounts of food while experiencing a sense of loss of control over eating
  • self-induced vomiting
  • laxative and diuretic misuse
  • intermittent fasting
  • excessive exercise

Bulimia nervosa includes a variety of medical complications that, although severe, are reversible with appropriate treatment. Symptoms can include: dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, swollen salivary glands, gastrointestinal disturbances (e.g. reflux, esophageal tears), dental erosion and deterioration, menstrual irregularities, dehydration, cardiac abnormalities.

Many individuals with bulimia nervosa also suffer from a variety of psychological problems including anxiety and depression.

Effective interventions for bulimia nervosa include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. The outcome of treatment for bulimia nervosa varies; some individuals have the illness for a long period of time while others alternate between recovery and intermittent binge eating and purging. Research however does show that over time symptoms appear to diminish.


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