Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa, which is often referred to simply as 'bulimia' is another of the more common and recognisable types of eating disorder.


The DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 5) (APA, 2013), the reference manual used to classify mental health disorders by the American Psychiatric Association defines the symptoms of bulimia as:

  1.  Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following:
    • Eating in a discrete period of time (e.g.: within a 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
    • 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)
  2. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications; fasting or excessive exercise
  3. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours both occur, on average at least twice a week for 3 months
  4. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight
  5. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa Specify purging or non-purging subtype

Recognise the symptoms

Common recognisable symptoms of Bulimia include:

  • Preoccupation with body image including weight and/or shape
  • Consuming large amounts of food in a short period of time
  • Frequently going to the bathroom during or between meals
  • Losing weight or maintaining a normal weight despite consuming large quantities of food
  • Wearing baggy clothes to mask weight change
  • Obsessive thoughts around food and eating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Bad breath due to regular vomiting
  • Depressive or suicidal thoughts
  • Aggressive or irritable behaviour

How is it treated?

As bulimia effects the individual both psychically and psychologically those living with the disorder are usually treated for the psychical symptoms first as this ensures they are healthy enough to take part in therapy to treat the psychological aspects of the disorder.

Psychological Treatment

Psychological treatment for the underlying thought processes associated with Bulimia is often treated using psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Family Therapy. CBT focuses on breaking the cycle of eating and purging before helping the sufferer to deal with the underlying thought processes which cause it.

As with all eating disorders, the first point of contact if you think you or someone close to you may be suffering from bulimia is your local GP.

For more information on where to go to get help please see our Getting Help section.

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