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Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia (boo-LEE-me-uh) nervosa, otherwise known as bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder.


People with bulimia usually secretly binge, eating large amounts of food and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unsafe way. Bulimia can be categorized in two ways:

  • Purging bulimia. Regularly self-induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, diuretics or enemas after bingeing.
  • Nonpurging bulimia.  Use of other methods to rid your body of calories and to prevent weight gain, such as fasting, strict dieting or excessive exercise.
Its been found these behaviors usually overlap, and the attempt to rid yourself of extra calories is usually referred to as purging, no matter what the method


Bulimia symptoms often include the following:
  • Being self-conscious about your body shape and weight
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Feeling you can't control your eating behavior
  • Eating until the point of discomfort or pain
  • Eating much more food in a binge episode than in a normal meal or snack
  • Forcing yourself to vomit or exercise too much to keep from gaining weight after bingeing
  • Misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating
  • Restricting calories or avoiding certain foods between binges
  • Using dietary supplements or herbal products excessively for weight loss


The exact cause of bulimia is unknown. There are various factors that might play a role in the development of eating disorders, including biology, emotional health, societal expectations and other issues.


Treatment involves a team approach that includes you, your family, your primary care doctor or other health care providers, and also a mental health provider and a dietitian experienced in treating eating disorders. The following are some treatment option for those who suffer from bulimia. Psychotherapy, commonly known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, involves discussing your bulimia and related issues with a mental health provider. Evidence indicates that these types of psychotherapy help improve symptoms of bulimia:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to help you identify unhealthy, negative thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with healthy, positive ones
  • Family-based therapy to help parents step in and being able to stop their teenager's unhealthy eating behaviors, then to help the teen regain control over his or her own eating.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy, which addresses difficulties in your close relationships, helping to improve your
Medications such as antidepressants can help control the symptoms of bulimia when combined with psychotherapy. The current known antidepressant specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat bulimia is fluoxetine (Prozac), a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which may help even if you're not depressed. Nutrition education and healthy weight is used by dietitians and other health care providers. During this type of treatment an eating plan is designed to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, normal eating habits and good nutrition. Hospitalization is used when someone has a severe form of bulimia and has health complications. Bulimia can and usually is treated outside of the hospital.

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