Bulimia Nervosa

Nicole Richardson-March 28, 2016

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is "A syndrome in which individuals periodically gorge themselves, usually with "junk food," and then either vomit or take laxatives to avoid weight gain." (Breedlove & Watson, 2013, p. 418). Bulimia nervous is considered a common eating disorder that causes extreme disturbances to one's eating habits and patterns. It is is extremely serious and can even be fatal (National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.).

According to Nolen-Hoeksema (2014), "The core characteristics of bulimia nervosa is uncontrolled eating, or bingeing, followed by behaviors designed to prevent weight gain from the binges" (p. 343) It is also common for there to be a compulsion towards "...food, body weight, and shape..." (NIMH, n.d., p. 1) People suffering from bulimia nervosa tend to think that they are heavier than they actually are (Breedlove & Watson, 2013).

Do you or someone you know meet the following criteria for bulimia nervosa?

DSM-5 Criteria for Bulimia Nervosa

A. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
1. Eating, in discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time under similar
2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

B. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

C. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once per week for 3 months.

D. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

E. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.

(American Psychiatric Association, 2013) (as cited in Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 343)

Questions and Answers about Bulimia Nervosa

The following are some questions and answers on bulimia nervosa, which also address some common myths and misperceptions of the disorder as well as some common causes of eating disorders.

Q: Are all eating disorders Bulimia Nervosa?

A: Bulimia nervosa is one of three common eating disorders. A person can also suffer from anorexia nervosa, which entails a person having an extreme restriction on food intake. A person can also suffer from binge-eating disorder, which is when a person consumes food constantly throughout the day (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Q: Can a person suffer from more than one eating disorder at a time?
According to Fairburn & Cooper (2011) & Keel, Brown, Holland, & Bodell, (2012), "most individuals who initially meet the criteria for one of these disorders "migrate" between them, meeting the criteria for two or more of the disorders at a time." (as cited in Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 339)

Q: Why is this considered a fatal disorder?
According to Breedlove & Watson (2014), "...bulimia nervosa can be fatal because the patient's lack of nutrient reserves damages various organ systems and/or leaves the body unable to battle otherwise mild diseases." (p. 418)

Q: What are some causes of eating disorders?
There are several causes for eating disorders, which include bulimia nervosa. There are biological factors, such as heredity and family history. Socialcultural and psychological factors are two other influences on eating disorders as there are many stressors that people often face regarding appearances and what is expected and accepted. Althetes endure the stress of being competitive with others, both in performances and physically. There are cognitive factors that entail negative thoughts and perceptions that one has about themselves (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Treatment Options

As devastating as an eating disorder, such as bulimia nervosa can be, there is help available. Psychotherapy, which involves Cognitive-behavioral therapy is helpful, as it allows for the person to "...develop more adaptive attitudes toward weight and body shape." (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014, p. 357) There are also biological therapies in where drugs may be necessary and beneficial for the treatment of bulimia nervosa. All treatments are based on the individuals disorder, causes; and there may be a need to combine treatments (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Seeking out the right medical professional is a very crucial part of treatment for the patient. A person should look for a certified medical professionals. According to the American Psychological Association, (n.d.) "Psychologists play a vital role in the successful treatment of eating disorders and are integral members of the multidisciplinary team that may be required to provide patient care. As part of this treatment, a physician may be called on to rule out medical illnesses and determine that the patient is not in immediate physical danger. A nutritionist may be asked to help assess and improve nutritional intake." (p. 1)

Under the following references, both websites that are provided are great resources for more information on eating disorders.


American Psychological Association, (n.d.). Eating Disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/eating.aspx

Breedlove, S.M., & Watson, N.V. (2013). Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral, Cognitive, and Clinical Neuroscience (7th Ed.) Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.

National Institute of Mental Health, (n.d.). Eating Disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014), Abnormal Psychology (6th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

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