Bulimia Nervosa

What you need to know!

Know your Facts

The term ‘eating disorder’ is a problem with a person’s eating condition (Obadina, 2014).

Bulimia nervosa is one of the top three eating disorders that produce life threatening conditions (Obadina, 2014). An eating disorder affects a person’s body, behavior, and thought processes (Obadina, 2014). Both women and men can suffer from an eating disorder, but it is more commonly diagnosed in young women ages 15 through 25 years of age (Obadina, 2014). Men are more likely than women to use excessive exercise to control their appearance, as they focus on developing a lean muscular look instead of being thin (Hoeksema, 2014).

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Key Points

The core characteristic of bulimia nervosa is uncontrolled eating or bingeing, with behaviors designed to prevent weight gain (Hoeksema, 2014). Bulimia can range from mild to severe, with mild presentations including 1-3 episodes of inappropriate behavior per week, while extreme cases involve over 14 episodes in a week (Hoeksema, 2014). The DSM-5 defines a binge as occurring over a period of time of 2-3 hours as the person eats an amount significantly larger than most people would eat in similar circumstances (Hoeksema, 2014). The DSM-5 criteria also include a lack of control over eating (Hoeksema, 2014).

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The Damage and Treatment

The behaviors of bulimia used to control their weight include self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics, and purging medications, fasting, and excessive exercise (Hoeksema, 2014). Dentists recognize people with bulimia due to their frequent vomiting that rot teeth due to stomach acid (Hoeksema, 2014). Some individuals with bulimia use exercise to control weight when they cannot control other aspects of their life (Hoeksema, 2014). There are known differences of cultural, racial, ethnic, and historical difference in the prevalence of the disease (Hoeksema, 2014). It is more common in Caucasians than in African Americans to have bulimia (Hoeksema, 2014). The onset of bulimia nervosa most often occurs in adolescence (Hoeksema, 2014). Bulimia has serious medical complications, such as electrolyte imbalance, which results from fluid loss after chronic vomiting, laxative abuse, and diuretic use which may also lead to heart failure (Hoeksema, 2014). The way people control emotion regulation and their concept of self-esteem may point to internalized shame between family dysfunction and bulimic psychopathology, with abandonment and vulnerability as mediating factors (Obadina, 2014). If the parient displays self-perfectionism, there may an association with maladaptive eating (Obadina, 2014). Maladaptive perfectionism is a negative self-evaluation rather than high personal standards (Obadina, 2014). In the cognitive–behavioral model of bulimia nervosa, dietary restraint is thought to play a major role in the maintenance of the disorder and is a main treatment target ( Lowe, Witt & Grossman, 2013). A treatment plan for bulimia involves psychological counseling and could also include medicines such as antidepressants (Bulimia). Treatment does not usually require staying in the hospital, but is a possibility (Bulimia). Professional counseling and medication can help reduce episodes of binging and purging and help you recover from bulimia (Bulimia).

Get Help

You can locate a board certified doctor, or get recommendations from your primary care physician. Seeking help can save your life.


Lowe, M. R., Witt, A. A., & Grossman, S. L. (2013). Dieting in bulimia nervosa is associated with increased food restriction and psychopathology but decreased binge eating. Eating Behaviors, 14(3), 342-347. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2013.06.011

(n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2014, from http://healthxtourism.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/bulimia_1.jpg

Bulimia Nervosa-Treatment Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2014, from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/bulimia-nervosa/bulimia-nervosa-treatment-overview

Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology (Sixth ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Duker, M., & Slade, R. (2003). Anorexia nervosa and bulimia : how to help / Marilyn Duker and Roger Slade. Buckingham ; Philadelphia : Open University Press, 2003.