Bulimia nervosa

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Bulimia nervosa, also known as simply bulimia, is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging. Binge eating refers to eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time. Purging refers to the attempts to get rid of the food consumed. This may be done by vomiting or taking laxatives. Other efforts to lose weight may include the use of diuretics, stimulants, water fasting, or excessive exercise.

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  • For females, bulimic symptoms increased from age 14 to 16 and declined slowly thereafter. For males, the symptoms decreased between ages 14 and 16 and returned in the early 20s. Females had higher levels of symptoms than males at every age. Age-associated trends in body mass index, appearance satisfaction, and symptoms of anxiety and depression were associated with some of the trends for both genders. For females, changes in alcohol consumption and cohabitation status functioned as predictors as well.
  • Of the eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the ones that have made adolescent patients-often females and aged younger and younger-seek for help. This help is provided through a multidisciplinary treatment involving psychiatrists, psychologists and dietists. Psychotherapy has shown to be an efficient component for these patients' improvement.
  • Dancers, in general, had a higher risk of suffering from eating disorders in general, anorexia nervosa and EDNOS, but no higher risk of suffering from bulimia nervosa. The study concluded that as dancers had a three times higher risk of suffering from eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa and EDNOS, specifically designed services for this population should be considered


  • Several lines of evidence suggest that a disturbance of serotonin neuronal pathways may contribute to the pathogenesis of anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). This study applied positron emission tomography (PET) to investigate the brain serotonin 2A (5-HT(2A)) receptor, which could contribute to disturbances of appetite and behavior in AN and BN. To avoid the confounding effects of malnutrition, we studied 10 women recovered from bulimia-type AN (REC AN-BN, > 1 year normal weight, regular menstrual cycles, no binging, or purging) compared with 16 healthy control women (CW) using PET imaging and a specific 5-HT(2A) receptor antagonist, [18F]altanserin. REC AN-BN women had significantly reduced [18F]altanserin binding potential relative to CW in the left subgenual cingulate, the left parietal cortex, and the right occipital cortex. [18F]altanserin binding potential was positively related to harm avoidance and negatively related to novelty seeking in cingulate and temporal regions only in REC AN-BN subjects. In addition, REC AN-BN had negative relationships between [18F]altanserin binding potential and drive for thinness in several cortical regions. In conclusion, this study extends research suggesting that altered 5-HT neuronal system activity persists after recovery from bulimia-type AN, particularly in subgenual cingulate regions. Altered 5-HT neurotransmission after recovery also supports the possibility that this may be a trait-related disturbance that contributes to the pathophysiology of eating disorders. It is possible that subgenual cingulate findings are not specific for AN-BN, but may be related to the high incidence of lifetime major depressive disorder diagnosis in these subjects.
  • Evidence for the effectiveness of existing treatments of patients with eating disorders is weak. Here we describe and evaluate a method of treatment in a randomized controlled trial. Sixteen patients, randomly selected out of a group composed of 19 patients with anorexia nervosa and 13 with bulimia nervosa, were trained to eat and recognize satiety by using computer support. They rested in a warm room after eating, and their physical activity was restricted. The patients in the control group (n = 16) received no treatment. Remission was defined by normal body weight (anorexia), cessation of binge eating and purging (bulimia), a normal psychiatric profile, normal laboratory test values, normal eating behavior, and resumption of social activities. Fourteen patients went into remission after a median of 14.4 months (range 4.9-26.5) of treatment, but only one patient went into remission while waiting for treatment (P = 0.0057). Relapse is considered a major problem in patients who have been treated to remission. We therefore report results on a total of 168 patients who have entered our treatment program. The estimated rate of remission was 75%, and estimated time to remission was 14.7 months (quartile range 9.6 > or = 32). Six patients (7%) of 83 who were treated to remission relapsed, but the others (93%) have remained in remission for 12 months (quartile range 6-36). Because the risk of relapse is maximal in the first year after remission, we suggest that most patients treated with this method recover.
  • The new criterion circulating among teenage girls: If you get rid of it through exercise rather than purging or laxatives, you don’t have a problem. Theirs is a world in which groups of dorm girls will plough voraciously through pizzas, chewing and then spitting out each mouthful. Do they have a disorder? Of course not-look, they’re eating pizza.
  • At one end of this continuum we find anorexia and bulimia, extremes which set into play physiological and psychological dynamics that lead the sufferer into addictive patterns and medical and emotional problems outside the “norms” of behavior and experience. But is is not only anoretics and bulimics whose lives are led into “disorder.” This is a culture in which rigorous dieting and exercise are being engaged in by more and younger girls all the time-girls as young as seven or eight, according to some studies. These little girls live in constant fear- a fear reinforced by the attitudes of the boys in their classes-of gaining a pound and thus ceasing to be “attractive.” They jog daily, count their calories obsessively, and risk serious vitamin deficiencies and delayed reproductive maturation. We may be producing a generation of young, privileged women with severely impaired menstrual, nutritional, and intellectual functioning.
  • The search for distinctive patterns, profiles, and abnormalities underlying anorexia nervosa and bulimia is thus not, as man researchers claim, “conceptually” demanded; a myriad of heterogeneous factors, “family resemblances” rather than essential features, unpredictable combinations of elements, may be at work in determining who turns out to be most susceptible. It may be, too, that patterns and profiles could one be assembled but are now breaking apart under the pressure of an increasingly coercive mass culture with its compelling, fabricated images of beauty and success.
  • The shallow and unanalyzed conception of slenderness as merely “an external body configuration “rather than” an internal spiritual state,” an ideal without psychological or moral depth, still predominates in the literature on anorexia and bulimia. Why? One explanation is that so long as eating disorders remain situated within a medical model, those who are entrusted with the conceptualization of anorexia and bulimia will be medical professionals who have little experience in or inclination toward cultural interpretation and criticism. But more important is the fact that to begin to incorporate such interpretation and criticism within the medical model would be to transform that model itself.


  • Studies comparing PSH with GSH found no significant differences between treatment groups at end of treatment or follow-up. Comparison between different types of PSH/GSH found significant differences on eating disorder symptoms but not on bingeing/purging abstinence rates.
  • PSH/GSH may have some utility as a first step in treatment and may have potential as an alternative to formal therapist-delivered psychological therapy. Future research should focus on producing large well-conducted studies of self-help treatments in eating disorders including health economic evaluations, different types and modes of delivering self-help (e.g. computerised versus manual-based) and different populations and settings.
  • The eating disorders anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are multifactorial syndromes of unknown origin which occur typically in female adolescents or young women. Nowadays, AN and BN are most often triggered by dietary restriction. Both are treatable conditions. As in other psychiatric disorders, a lower comorbidity, a shorter duration of illness, less familial psychopathology, and, in AN, a higher minimal weight have been shown to be associated with a better outcome. So far, no abnormalities specific to AN or BN that would shed light on their etiology have been identified. Controlled and uncontrolled studies testing antipsychotic, antidepressant, weight-promoting, and prokinetic drugs have demonstrated that the core symptoms of AN are refractory to currently available psychotropic medication. For relapse prevention, however, antidepressant medication may be useful. Renutrition, psychotherapy, and family therapy remain the cornerstones of treatment for AN. Placebo-controlled studies with antidepressant drugs have been far more promising for treating BN in the short term. Recent studies have found that lasting symptomatic improvement and remission require the addition of psychological treatments in the form of cognitive and interpersonal psychotherapy. The steady stream of newly identified peptides and other molecules involved in appetite and body weight control may ultimately provide cues to better targeted treatments of eating disorders.
  • Personality traits have been implicated in the onset, symptomatic expression, and maintenance of eating disorders (EDs). The present article reviews literature examining the link between personality and EDs published within the past decade, and presents a meta-analysis evaluating the prevalence of personality disorders (PDs) in anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) as assessed by self-report instruments versus diagnostic interviews. AN and BN are both consistently characterized by perfectionism, obsessive-compulsiveness, neuroticism, negative emotionality, harm avoidance, low self-directedness, low cooperativeness, and traits associated with avoidant PD. Consistent differences that emerge between ED groups are high constraint and persistence and low novelty seeking in AN and high impulsivity, sensation seeking, novelty seeking, and traits associated with borderline PD in BN. The meta-analysis, which found PD rates of 0 to 58% among individuals with AN and BN, documented that self-report instruments greatly overestimate the prevalence of every PD.


  • The Stroop task has been adapted from cognitive psychology to be able to examine attentional biases in various forms of psychopathology, including the eating disorders. This paper reviews the research on the Stroop task in the eating disorders research area in both descriptive and meta-analytic fashions. Twenty-eight empirical studies are identified, which predominantly examine food and body/weight stimuli in bulimic, anorexic, or dieting/food-restricted samples. It is concluded that there is evidence of an attentional bias in bulimia for a range of stimuli but that the effect seems to be limited to body/weight stimuli in anorexia. The evidence to date is that there is no attentional bias in dieting samples.
  • Bulimia nervosa and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) share several key features, including impulsivity and low self-esteem. Stimulant medications have been highly effective in the treatment of ADHD. However, medication management of bulimia with antidepressants has demonstrated only partial resolution of bulimic symptoms. To date, there are no published reports of controlled trials evaluating the efficacy of stimulants for bulimia.
  • Data from these case reports suggest a possible benefit of screening for ADHD as part of the overall evaluation of bulimia. In addition, these cases suggest the potential role of psychostimulants in the management of bulimia because of the high rate of abstinence from bulimic symptoms and the low rate of adverse side effects. Clinical trials are needed to fully evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of psychostimulants in the treatment of bulimia nervosa.


  • The relationship between characteristics of self-soothing ability, the capacity for evocative memory, and aloneness was investigated in a clinical sample of 50 bulimia nervosa (BN) patients.
  • Results suggest the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the role of affect regulation and the experience of aloneness in BN and the need to develop treatments to specifically address these features of the illness.
  • The similarities between the mentalities of anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and sexual repression among young women are undeniable. Young women starve their bodies until they can no longer resist both physical and sexual hungers. But the guilt associated with indulging becomes overwhelming and purging and punishment ensues. Both biological and sexual hungers are natural. However the messages sent to young women by their culture are that neither of these hungers are normal and, in fact, are immoral and inexcusable.
    • Essick, Ellen (2006). "Eating Disorders and Sexuality". In Steinberg, Shirley R.; Parmar, Priya; Richard, Birgit. Contemporary Youth Culture: An International Encyclopedia. Greenwood. p.276


  • Among the whole sample, the factor most strongly associated with suicide attempt or suicidal ideation was the diagnostic category, with the highest odds ratio for bulimia nervosa followed by anorexia nervosa of the binging/purging subtype. Among diagnostic subgroups, the strongest factors were drug use, alcohol use, and tobacco use.
  • Previously, we identified that a majority of patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) as well as some control subjects display autoantibodies (autoAbs) reacting with alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) or adrenocorticotropic hormone, melanocortin peptides involved in appetite control and the stress response. In this work, we studied the relevance of such autoAbs to AN and BN. In addition to previously identified neuropeptide autoAbs, the current study revealed the presence of autoAbs reacting with oxytocin (OT) or vasopressin (VP) in both patients and controls. Analysis of serum levels of identified autoAbs showed an increase of IgM autoAbs against alpha-MSH, OT, and VP as well as of IgG autoAbs against VP in AN patients when compared with BN patients and controls. Further, we investigated whether levels of these autoAbs correlated with psychological traits characteristic for eating disorders. We found significantly altered correlations between alpha-MSH autoAb levels and the total Eating Disorder Inventory-2 score, as well as most of its subscale dimensions in AN and BN patients vs. controls. Remarkably, these correlations were opposite in AN vs. BN patients. In contrast, levels of autoAbs reacting with adrenocorticotropic hormone, OT, or VP had only few altered correlations with the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 subscale dimensions in AN and BN patients. Thus, our data reveal that core psychobehavioral abnormalities characteristic for eating disorders correlate with the levels of autoAbs against alpha-MSH, suggesting that AN and BN may be associated with autoAb-mediated dysfunctions of primarily the melanocortin system.
  • With the apparent increase in prevalence of anorexic and bulimic eating disorders, the search for effective treatments for these disorders has been intensified in recent years. In this review the results of psychopharmacological studies of patients with anorexia or bulimia nervosa are presented and analysed. The focus of this review is on controlled studies. Although a variety of psychopharmacological substances has been tested in patients with anorexia nervosa, the outcome of controlled studies has been generally disappointing. A possible differential therapy effect of cyproheptadine needs replication: in one study it enhanced body weight gain in non-bulimic anorexics, while it appeared to hinder weight gain in bulimic anorexics. The issue of prophylaxis of osteoporosis in chronic low-weight anorexics has received increasing attention in recent years, and pharmacological prophylaxis appears indicated in this patient group. The results of psychopharmacological treatment studies of patients with bulimia nervosa have overall been more favourable than those of anorexic patients. Statistically significant effects concerning the reduction of bulimic or depressive symptoms in bulimia nervosa has been demonstrated for tricyclic antidepressants (imipramine, desipramine), serotonergic agents (fluoxetine, d-fenfluramine), non-selective monoamine-oxydase-inhibitors (isocarboxazide, phenelzine) and trazodone. The antibulimic effect appears not to be associated with the antidepressant effect. Theoretical, methodological and practical issues concerning pharmacological treatment of anorexic and bulimic eating disorders are presented and discussed.
  • Franko et al’s results are also very interesting as they found that suicide attempts were more frequent among people with anorexia than among people with bulimia. This finding may have implications for clinical practice, both for treatment and for seeking confirmation of this evidence. The generalisability of Franko et al’s results will depend on further longitudinal studies with similar features. One of the authors’ aims was to identify predictors of suicide and suicide attempts. This should also be the aim of all mental health professionals involved in the treatment of people with eating disorders. However, future studies would benefit from a careful consideration of the diagnostic tools used, the evaluation of suicide risk and the recognition of comorbid Axis I disorders or personality disorders that may increase suicide risk dramatically.
  • Suicide is a common cause of death in anorexia nervosa and suicide attempts occur often in both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. No studies have examined predictors of suicide attempts in a longitudinal study of eating disorders with frequent follow-up intervals. The objective of this study was to determine predictors of serious suicide attempts in women with eating disorders.
    In a prospective longitudinal study, women diagnosed with either DSM-IV anorexia nervosa (n = 136) or bulimia nervosa (n = 110) were interviewed and assessed for suicide attempts and suicidal intent every 6-12 months over 8.6 years.
    Fifteen percent of subjects reported at least one prospective suicide attempt over the course of the study. Significantly more anorexic (22.1%) than bulimic subjects (10.9%) made a suicide attempt. Multivariate analyses indicated that the unique predictors of suicide attempts for anorexia nervosa included the severity of both depressive symptoms and drug use over the course of the study. For bulimia nervosa, a history of drug use disorder at intake and the use of laxatives during the study significantly predicted suicide attempts.
    Women with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are at considerable risk to attempt suicide. Clinicians should be aware of this risk, particularly in anorexic patients with substantial co-morbidity.
  • Studies of the role of leptin in patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have conflicted in their data and interpretation. Such differences may be a result of the assay methods used or the way results are compared with those from normal controls. To investigate these possibilities, we analyzed serum leptin levels in anorexic, bulimic, obese, and control individuals, thereby spanning the full range of human body weights, using three frequently employed commercial kits. Kits from Linco (St Louis, MO) and DSL (Webster, TX) employ a radioimmunoassay method, and the R&D Systems kit (Minneapolis, MN) uses an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We found that the three kits provide results that are highly linearly correlated with each other and remarkably linearly related to percent ideal body weight (%IBW) over more than three orders of magnitude (Linco, r = 0.90; R&D, r = 0.87; DSL, r = 0.86). For very low leptin levels, the more sensitive kits from R&D and Linco appeared to give more reliable results. Measurement method does not appear to explain the literature conflicts. We found that patients with anorexia nervosa have serum leptin values that lie above the line extrapolated from the %IBW/leptin curve generated from analysis of all non-anorexic patients. Therefore, in anorexia nervosa, inappropriately high leptin levels for %IBW may contribute to a blunted physiologic response to underweight and consequent resistance to dietary treatment. By contrast, most bulimic patients have leptin levels significantly below those predicted from the same %IBW/leptin curve. The relative leptin deficiency in bulimic subjects may contribute to food-craving behavior. We propose that using the %IBW/ leptin curve can facilitate identification of true pathophysiologic abnormalities in eating-disordered individuals and provide a basis for the design of therapeutic interventions or monitoring of response to treatment.
    • Frederich, R; Hu, S; Raymond, N; Pomeroy, C (2002). [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11919545 "Leptin in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa: importance of assay technique and method of interpretation". The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine. 139 (2): 72–9. doi:10.1067/mlc.2002.121014. PMID 11919545.
  • Disturbances of volume-regulating mechanisms have already been implicated in the pathophysiology of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia nervosa with the peptide hormones vasopressin and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) being of special interest. Aim of the present study was to investigate, whether the expression of the corresponding genes was altered and if so, if these changes could be explained by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation. We analyzed blood samples of 46 women suffering from anorexia (n=22) or bulimia nervosa (n=24) as well as of 30 healthy controls. Peripheral mRNA expression and DNA methylation of the vasopressin and the ANP precursor genes were assessed using real-time PCR. We found significantly lower levels of ANP mRNA in patients with eating disorders. This downregulation was accompanied by a hypermethylation of the ANP gene promoter in the bulimic subgroup. We did not find differences regarding expression or methylation of the vasopressin gene. ANP mRNA expression was inversely associated with impaired impulse regulation. We conclude that epigenetic mechanisms may contribute to the known alterations of ANP homeostasis in women with eating disorders.
  • The pathophysiology of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) has been linked to an impaired dopaminergic neurotransmission, still the origin of this disturbance remains unknown. The aim of the present study was, therefore, to evaluate whether the expression of dopaminergic genes is altered in the blood of patients suffering from eating disorders and if these alterations can be explained by changes in the promoter specific DNA methylation of the genes.
  • Our study shows a disturbed expression of dopaminergic genes that is accompanied by a dysregulation of the epigenetic DNA methylation. Further studies are necessary to provide more insight into the epigenetic dysregulation of the dopaminergic neurotransmission in the pathophysiology of eating disorders.


  • While abnormalities in central norepinephrine regulation may contribute to abnormal eating patterns in bulimia nervosa, alterations in function of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system could contribute to the decreased metabolic rate and increased anxiety responses previously reported in these patients. To assess beta-adrenergic receptor sensitivity in bulimic patients, we studied cardiovascular and hormonal responses to acute pharmacological challenge with intravenously administered isoproterenol. In comparison to healthy controls, binge-abstinent bulimic patients had significantly reduced mean baseline plasma norepinephrine level, pulse rate, and systolic blood pressure, and significantly increased chronotropic responses to isoproterenol infusion. Decreased sympathoneural activity may contribute to a tendency for bulimic patients to maintain body weight despite low caloric intake.
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorders (BED), are described as abnormal eating habits that usually involve insufficient or excessive food intake. Animal models have been developed that provide insight into certain aspects of eating disorders. Several drugs have been found efficacious in these animal models and some of them have eventually proven useful in the treatment of eating disorders. This review will cover the role of monoaminergic neurotransmitters in eating disorders and their pharmacological manipulations in animal models and humans. Dopamine, 5-HT (serotonin) and noradrenaline in hypothalamic and striatal regions regulate food intake by affecting hunger and satiety and by affecting rewarding and motivational aspects of feeding. Reduced neurotransmission by dopamine, 5-HT and noradrenaline and compensatory changes, at least in dopamine D2 and 5-HT(2C/2A) receptors, have been related to the pathophysiology of AN in humans and animal models. Also, in disorders and animal models of BN and BED, monoaminergic neurotransmission is down-regulated but receptor level changes are different from those seen in AN. A hypofunctional dopamine system or overactive α2-adrenoceptors may contribute to an attenuated response to (palatable) food and result in hedonic binge eating. Evidence for the efficacy of monoaminergic treatments for AN is limited, while more support exists for the treatment of BN or BED with monoaminergic drugs.
  • Thirty-one women (averaging at least one binge/purge episode per week) were randomly assigned to 20 weeks of dialectical behavior therapy or 20 weeks of a waiting-list comparison condition. The manual-based dialectical behavior therapy focused on training in emotion regulation skills.
  • An intent-to-treat analysis showed highly significant decreases in binge/purge behavior with dialectical behavior therapy compared to the waiting-list condition. No significant group differences were found on any of the secondary measures.
  • The use of dialectical behavior therapy adapted for treatment of bulimia nervosa was associated with a promising decrease in binge/purge behaviors.
  • There is no single cause of an eating disorder. We know that genetics play a large role, but genetic vulnerability is only part of the story. Environment plays a role too, especially in triggering onset, which often occurs in adolescence. Pressure to diet or weight loss related to a medical condition can be the gateway to anorexia nervosa or bulimia. For those who are genetically vulnerable to anorexia nervosa, once they lose the first five to 10 lbs, dieting becomes increasingly compelling and rewarding. Looked at another way, if eating disorders were the result solely of social pressure for thinness we would expect eating disorder rates to have increased as obesity has in the past few decades, yet anorexia nervosa and bulimia remain relatively rare and often cluster in families.
    • Angela Guarda, M.D. "Eating Disorders". American Psychiatric Association. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.


  • A prospective, naturalistic, longitudinal design was used to map the course of AN and BN in 246 women. Follow-up data are presented in terms of full and partial recovery, predictors of time to recovery, and rates and predictors of relapse.
    The full recovery rate of women with BN was significantly higher than that of women with AN, with 74% of those with BN and 33% of those with AN achieving full recovery by a median of 90 months of follow-up. Intake diagnosis of AN was the strongest predictor of worse outcome. No predictors of recovery emerged among bulimic subjects. Eighty-three percent of women with AN and 99% of those with BN achieved partial recovery. Approximately one third of both women with AN and women with BN relapsed after full recovery. No predictors of relapse emerged.
    The findings suggest that the course of AN is characterized by high rates of partial recovery and low rates of full recovery, while the course of BN is characterized by higher rates of both partial and full recovery.
  • General-practice studies show that the overall incidence rates of anorexia nervosa remained stable during the 1990s, compared with the 1980s. Some evidence suggests that the occurrence of bulimia nervosa is decreasing. Anorexia nervosa is a common disorder among young white females, but is extremely rare among black females. Recent studies confirm previous findings of the high mortality rate within the anorexia nervosa population.
  • The incidence of anorexia nervosa is around eight per 100,000 persons per year. An upward trend has been observed in the incidence of anorexia nervosa in the past century till the 1970s. The most substantial increase was among females aged 15-24 years, for whom a significant increase was observed from 1935 to 1999. The average prevalence rates for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa among young females are 0.3 and 1%, respectively. Only a minority of people with eating disorders, especially with bulimia nervosa, are treated in mental healthcare.


  • We examined the extent to which attachment insecurity was related to eating disorder (ED) symptoms, and predictive of treatment outcomes. Women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (AN) restricting subtype (ANR), AN binge purge subtype (ANB), or bulimia nervosa (BN) completed an attachment scale pretreatment, and ED symptom scales pretreatment (N = 243) and post-treatment (N = 157). A comparison sample of 126 non-ED women completed attachment scales on 1 occasion. Those with EDs had significantly higher attachment insecurity than non-ED. ANB was associated with higher attachment avoidance compared with ANR and BN, and higher attachment anxiety compared with BN. Higher attachment anxiety was significantly related to greater ED symptom severity and poorer treatment outcome across all EDs even after controlling for ED diagnosis. Attachment dimensions substantially contribute to our understanding of ED symptoms and treatment outcome. Addressing attachment insecurity when treating those with EDs may improve treatment outcomes.
  • The aim of the article was an attempt to present selected theoretical motifs and moreover self experience in the adaptation of elements of psychodrama by Moreno in psychodynamic psychotherapy (individual and group psychotherapy) in a group of people with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Psychodrama through own creativity, spontaneity and taking action on the "here and now" stage helps to attain and intensify therapeutic aims which concern the consciousness of inner conflict of persons with anorexia and bulimia nervosa, which is translocated on their body.


  • Ninety-four female-female twins underwent a transabdominal ultrasound examination to detect polycystic ovaries. The scans of 52 individuals showed normal ovaries and 42 had evidence of polycystic ovaries. All the subjects were sent a bulimia investigation test (Edinburgh) (BITE) questionnaire for abnormal eating behavior. A total of 74 responses was received (79%). Overall, 76% of women with polycystic ovaries had an abnormal BITE score and their mean BITE score showed a significant increase compared to those with normal ovaries. Also, model fitting analysis suggested a strong genetic effect for bulimia using the BITE scoring system, and it provided strong evidence of a significant influence of environmental factors in the severity score of bulimia.
  • Osteoporosis has been reported in anorexia nervosa (AN), but not in other eating disorders. Thirty-three patients, 8 AN, 17 bulimia nervosa (BN), and 8 eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS), were evaluated by bone densitometry (radius, spine, femur) to determine the prevalence and distribution of osteoporosis and the role of physical parameters, exercise and estrogen. All three diagnostic subgroups had evidence of decreased bone density, worst in the EDNOS subgroup and least in the BN subgroup. The most affected site was the femur, least the spine; the radius was intermediate. Age, body surface area, age of onset, and length of illness weakly correlated with the femur and spine density in the BN and EDNOS subgroups.


  • The authors explore the extent to which eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), represent culture-bound syndromes and discuss implications for conceptualizing the role genes play in their etiology. The examination is divided into 3 sections: a quantitative meta-analysis of changes in incidence rates since the formal recognition of AN and BN, a qualitative summary of historical evidence of eating disorders before their formal recognition, and an evaluation of the presence of these disorders in non-Western cultures. Findings suggest that BN is a culture-bound syndrome and AN is not. Thus, heritability estimates for BN may show greater variability cross-culturally than heritability estimates for AN, and the genetic bases of these disorders may be associated with differential pathoplasticity.


  • This research suggests that daily solitude has a central role in bulimia. A sample of 15 bulimic patients and 24 normal controls carried electronic pagers for one week and filled out self-reports on their experience in response to randomly timed signals. The bulimics reported the lowest mood states when alone at home, the context in which their symptomatic behavior usually takes place. Further, those who reported the worst experiences in this context were the one's showing the most severe behavioral and affective manifestations of the disorder.
  • Exposure plus response prevention has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of bulimia nervosa. However, when done individually, it is labor intensive and cost-ineffective. In the present study exposure plus response prevention was used in the context of a 6-wk., 12-session behavioral group. In addition to the exposure plus response-prevention component, other techniques included self-monitoring, cognitive restructuring, eating-habit stabilization and problem-solving. Eight bulimic women, vomiting a minimum of five times per week for at least a year, participated in the group. At the end of treatment significant reductions in bingeing and vomiting behaviors were reported by all but one subject, substantiated by significantly lower depression scores (Beck Depression Inventory) and binge-eating scores (Binge Eating Scale). At 6 mo. and 1 yr. posttreatment, 6 of 8 subjects reported averaging less than one binge-purge episode per week, one subject continued unchanged, and one subject had relapsed. A group of wait-list control subjects reported essentially no change in binge-purge frequency over the treatment period. Exposure plus response prevention conducted in a behavioral group context appears to be a cost-effective alternative to individual treatment.


  • Bulimia and anorexia nervosa are the main diagnostic categories of eating disorders,1 affecting up to 1.5% of people in the USA at any one time. Both conditions are associated with physical (eg, reduced body mass index, percentage of body fat) and psychosocial (eg, depression, anxiety, quality of life) impairments, as well as high risk of death. Anorexia nervosa is specifically characterised by an excessive exercise engagement with fear of weight gain and aversion of fat, whereas people with bulimia nervosa present with binge eating and purging. These eating disorders are considered one of the most challenging psychiatric conditions to treat, and treatment usually comprises of cognitive–behavioural therapy and pharmacological management. Exercise is usually not recommended for patients with these conditions, mainly due to the belief that it might aggravate the progress of the disorder. However, there is evidence that exercise increases body mass index and reduce depression in people with binge eating.8 What is uncertain is whether physiotherapy interventions are effective in treating bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
  • One hundred fifty-three patients classified as suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and 109 patients who were suffering from a clear organic disorder or endocrinopathy received the bulimia investigation test (Edinburgh) (BITE) questionnaire for abnormal eating behaviors. Patients with PCOS showed a significant increase in their mean BITE score for approximately a third had abnormal eating patterns, and 6% have scores suggestive of clinical bulimia compared with only 1% of women in the group with organic endocrinopathies. The work suggests that women with PCOS should be screened for abnormal eating behaviors and raises the possibility that treatment by psychological means should be considered when abnormal eating behaviors are present.
  • Childhood impulsivity, as opposed to hyperactivity or inattention, best predicted adolescent BN symptoms, particularly for girls. Among youth with ADHD, treatment received during the follow-up period was not associated with BN pathology.
    Both boys and girls with ADHD may be at risk for BN symptoms in adolescence because of the impulsivity central to both disorders.
  • This study clearly shows a strong association between resolution of bulimia and changes in ovarian morphology, suggesting that changes in the former mirror changes in the latter. It also demonstrates normalization of ovarian morphology in previously polycystic ovaries.
  • The UK Department of Health's National Service Framework for Mental Health has stressed the importance of managing such eating disorders as BN in primary care, noting that “antidepressants can reduce purging and bingeing whether or not the person is also depressed”. Although this statement is true in the short term, it would seem an optimistic reading of the literature. Prescription of antidepressants may appear to be the easiest route in a primary care setting, but the clinical implication of Bacaltchuk et al's review is that the easiest route may not be the most effective, cost effective, or acceptable for clinicians and their patients.
    However, in the busy world of primary care, the treatment of BN will continue to be driven by available resources. CBT for BN is generally preferred by the family doctor when specialists with such training are available. But the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in collaboration with the Consumers' Association, has recently reported the dearth of specialist eating disorder services beyond southeastern England.3 Thus, in the more likely scenario of limited eating disorder services, use of antidepressant medication may seem more attractive. These 2 reviews agree with that approach and suggest that antidepressant medication will produce positive shortterm results; however, BN is not a short term illness. Relapse prevention deserves greater scrutiny for patients with BN and anorexia nervosa, and longer term follow up studies should drive the next generation of treatment intervention studies.


  • In recent years, anorexia and bulimia nervosa, whether combined into a single clinical picture or considered as distinct syndromes, have reached epidemic proportions among adolescents. Professionals in the educational and physical and mental health care fields need to be aware of the influence of social pressures on teenagers' perceptions of body image and appearance. This article reviews the sociocultural, socioeconomic, and sex-related factors which contribute to the development of eating disorders. It is recommended that professionals help adolescents resist societal pressure to conform to unrealistic standards of appearance, and provide guidance on nutrition, realistic body ideals, and achievement of self-esteem, self-efficacy, interpersonal relations and coping skills.
  • Prior research on non-clinical samples has lent support to the sexual competition hypothesis for eating disorders (SCH) where the drive for thinness can be seen as an originally adaptive strategy for women to preserve a nubile female shape, which, when driven to an extreme, may cause eating disorders. Restrictive versus impulsive eating behavior may also be relevant for individual differences in allocation of resources to either mating effort or somatic growth, reflected in an evolutionary concept called "Life History Theory" (LHT). In this study, we aimed to test the SCH and predictions from LHT in female patients with clinically manifest eating disorders. Accordingly, 20 women diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (AN), 20 with bulimia nervosa (BN), and 29 age-matched controls completed a package of questionnaires comprising measures for behavioral features and attitudes related to eating behavior, intrasexual competition, life history strategy, executive functioning and mating effort. In line with predictions, we found that relatively faster life history strategies were associated with poorer executive functioning, lower perceived own mate value, greater intrasexual competition for mates but not for status, and, in part, with greater disordered eating behavior. Comparisons between AN and BN revealed that individuals with BN tended to pursue a "fast" life history strategy, whereas people with AN were more similar to controls in pursuing a "slow" life history strategy. Moreover, intrasexual competition for mates was significantly predicted by the severity of disordered eating behavior. Together, our findings lend partial support to the SCH for eating disorders. We discuss the implications and limitations of our study findings.
  • An association between bulimia nervosa and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has been suggested but also questioned. Since there is still a controversy about this issue, we investigated clinical and biochemical symptoms of PCOS according to the new diagnostic criteria in a large group of bulimic women compared with controls. Seventy-seven women with bulimia and 59 matched healthy women were investigated with respect to menstrual status, polycystic ovaries, hirsutism, acne and sex hormone levels. We found increased occurrence of menstrual disturbances, hirsutism and PCOS in bulimic women, whereas ovarian variables and acne did not differ from controls. Hirsutism score and indices of biologically active testosterone were positively correlated in bulimics but not in controls, while there were no major differences in serum androgens. In conclusion, this study supports an increased frequency of PCOS in bulimic women and may also indicate increased androgen sensitivity in these women. PCOS may promote bulimic behavior since androgens have appetite-stimulating effects and could impair impulse control. Menstrual disturbances and clinical signs of hyperandrogenism should be evaluated in bulimics in order to provide adequate medical care and treatment.


  • We document here the first case of bulimia nervosa associated with primary hyperparathyroidism. The binge eating and self-induced vomiting that occurred for more than 10 years disappeared completely after the surgical cure of primary hyperparathyroidism. Depressive and anxiety symptoms also improved dramatically. The possible influence of derangement in calcium metabolism on the neurobiochemical mechanism of bulimia nervosa is discussed.


  • Suicide in anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is a major cause of death. Risk factors for suicide and attempted suicide (which in many cases results in successful suicide) in anorexia nervosa include: purging type, chronic disease, and during treatment, obsessive symptoms and drug abuse, major depression, and for anorexia nervosa low body mass index (BMI) at presentation. In anorexia nervosa suicide has been considered the first cause of death and attempted suicide is a serious threat to these individuals. Data concerning suicide in bulimia nervosa has still scarce whereas attempted suicides are easily found in clinical histories of patients. No doubt suicidal behavior is underestimated amongst patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. An effort to reconcile with subject of suicide and a better evaluation of these patients' psychopathology should improve suicide prevention strategies amongst these individuals.


  • To date, more than 1365 trials have been generated by searching and over 100 trials have been evaluated in detail. Because of a relatively high number of original exclusions (n=12) the trial inclusion criteria were broadened to include those with non-blinded outcome assessment, providing 34 trials for analyses. Because of incomplete published and available data, at best up to 12 studies had data available for any single analysis. The maximum number of total patients included in a single analysis was 602. The majority of studies evaluated patients with bulimia nervosa of a purging type. The review supported the efficacy of cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy (CBT) and particularly CBT-BN in the treatment of people with bulimia nervosa and also (but less strongly due to the small number of trials) like eating disorder syndromes. CBT had been used with efficacy in group settings. Other psychotherapies were also efficacious, particularly interpersonal psychotherapy in the longer-term. Self-help approaches that used highly structured CBT treatment manuals, were promising albeit with more modest results generally, and their evaluation in bulimia nervosa approach merits further research. Exposure and response prevention did not appear to enhance the efficacy of CBT. Psychotherapy alone is unlikely to reduce or change body weight in people with bulimia nervosa or similar eating disorders.
  • There was a small body of evidence for the efficacy of cognitive-behaviour therapy in bulimia nervosa and similar syndromes, but the quality of trials was very variable (e.g. the majority were not blinded) and sample sizes were often small in comparison to pharmacotherapy trials. More trials are needed, particularly for binge eating disorder and other EDNOS syndromes, and trials evaluating other psychotherapies and less intensive psychotherapies.
  • This article describes the qualitative analysis of a randomized control trial that explores the use of parent-to-parent consultations as an augmentation to the Maudsley model of family-based treatment for anorexia. Twenty families were randomized into two groups, 10 receiving standard treatment and 10 receiving an additional parent-to-parent consultation. Parents of all families were interviewed regarding their experience of treatment and transcripts were analyzed with the assistance of QSR N-Vivo. Parents described parent-to-parent consultations as an intense emotional experience that helped them to feel less alone, to feel empowered to progress, and to reflect on changes in family interactions. These results suggest that parent-to-parent consultations are seen as a useful augmentation to the Maudsley model of family-based treatment for anorexia nervosa.
  • The development of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and atypical eating disorders that affect many young women and even men in the productive period of their lives is complex and varied. While numbers of presumed risk factors contributing to the development of eating disorders are increasing, previous evidence for biological, psychological, developmental, and sociocultural effects on the development of eating disorders have not been conclusive. Despite the fact that a huge body of research has carefully examined the possible risk factors associated with the eating disorders, they have failed not only to uncover the exact etiology of eating disorders, but also to understand the interaction between different causes of eating disorders. This failure may be due complexities of eating disorders, limitations of the studies or combination of two factors. In this review, some risk factors including biological, psychological, developmental, and sociocultural are discussed.
  • Studies have reported that the oral health status is jeopardized in patients with eating disorders. The aim was to review the oro-facial manifestations in patients with eating disorders. The address the focused question was "What is the oro-dental health status in patients with eating disorders?" MEDLINE/PubMed and Google Scholar databases were searched from 1948 to March 2012 using the following terms in various combinations: "Anorexia nervosa", "bulimia nervosa", "eating disorders", "dental", "oral health status". Letters to the editor, unpublished data and articles published in languages other than English were excluded. Dry lips, burning tongue and parotid gland swelling are common manifestations in patients with eating disorders as compared to medically healthy controls. The association of dental caries and periodontal disease in patients with eating disorders remains debatable. Temporomandibular disorders have also been reported to be more prevalent in patients with eating disorders as compared to healthy controls. A critical oral-dental examination during routine dental check-ups may reveal valuable information regarding the presence or absence of eating disorders in routine dental patients. This may be important information, updating the medical history, supporting the role of the physician.
  • According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by 1 or more compensatory behaviors to eliminate the calories (vomiting, laxatives, fasting, etc.) that take place on average a minimum of twice weekly for 3 or more months.5 Patients who do not meet the frequency or length criteria may be diagnosed with DSM-IV eating disorder not otherwise specified.
    Bulimia nervosa is also delineated into 2 distinct subtypes: purging and nonpurging. With the purging subtype, patients engage in some method to remove the binged food from their bodies. This is most often accomplished by self-induced vomiting but can include the misuse of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Nonpurging bulimics use fasting or excessive exercise as the primary compensation for binges but do not regularly purge. Regardless of subtype, bulimic patients have negative self-evaluations, placing inappropriate importance on weight and body image.


  • The use of dialectical behavior therapy adapted for treatment of bulimia nervosa was associated with a promising decrease in binge/purge behaviors.
  • Of the 85 study participants, 41 were assigned to family therapy and 44 to CBT guided self-care. At 6 months, bingeing had undergone a significantly greater reduction in the guided self-care group than in the family therapy group; however, this difference disappeared at 12 months. There were no other differences between groups in behavioral or attitudinal eating disorder symptoms. The direct cost of treatment was lower for guided self-care than for family therapy. The two treatments did not differ in other cost categories.
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, commonly involve a dysregulation of behavior (e.g., a lack or excess of inhibition and impulsive eating patterns) that is suggestive of prefrontal dysfunction. Functional neuro-imaging studies show that prefrontal-subcortical systems play a role in eating behavior and appetite in healthy individuals, and that people with eating disorders have altered activity in these systems. Eating behavior is often disturbed by illnesses and injuries that impinge upon prefrontal-subcortical systems. This study examined relationships between executive functioning and eating behavior in healthy individuals using validated behavioral rating scales (Frontal Systems Behavior Scale and Eating Inventory). Correlations demonstrated that increased dysexecutive traits were associated with disinhibited eating and greater food cravings. There was also a positive association with cognitive restraint of eating, suggesting that increased compensatory behaviors follow disinhibited eating. These psychometric findings reinforce those of other methodologies, supporting a role for prefrontal systems in eating.
  • Recent research has modified both the conceptualization and treatment of eating disorders. New diagnostic criteria reducing the "not otherwise specified" category should facilitate the early recognition and treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). Technology-based studies identify AN and BN as "brain circuit" disorders; epidemiologic studies reveal that the narrow racial, ethnic and income profile of individuals no longer holds true for AN. The major organs affected long term-the brain and skeletal system-both respond to improved nutrition, with maintenance of body weight the best predictor of recovery. Twin studies have revealed gene x environment interactions, including both the external (social) and internal (pubertal) environments of boys and of girls. Family-based treatment has the best evidence base for effectiveness for younger patients. Medication plays a limited role in AN, but a major role in BN. Across diagnoses, the most important medicine is food.
  • Eating disorders are significant causes of morbidity and mortality in adolescent females and young women. They are associated with severe medical and psychological consequences, including death, osteoporosis, growth delay and developmental delay. Dermatologic symptoms are almost always detectable in patients with severe anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), and awareness of these may help in the early diagnosis of hidden AN or BN.


  • The findings suggest that a subgroup of patients with bulimia nervosa may benefit from unguided self-help as a first step in their treatment. Cognitive behavior self-help and nonspecific self-help had equivalent effects.
  • This review summarises the results of psychopharmacological treatment studies on anorexia and, bulimia nervosa. Although several drugs have tested in patients with anorexia nervosa, the outcome of controlled studies has been disappointing. Trials of pharmacotherapy for bulimia nervosa have demonstrated that tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors significantly reduce the frequency of binge eating and purging. In some cases, psychotherapists should accept the necessity of psychopharmacological intervention, although this does not imply a known biological cause of the eating disorder. However, the significance of antidepressant medication in the overall treatment of anorexia and bulimia nervosa remains unclear.
  • In some cases, the psychological need for more or the feeling of not enough that is so characteristic of the ego becomes transferred to the physical level and so turns into insatiable hunger. The sufferers of bulimia will often make themselves vomit so they can continue eating. Their mind is hungry, not their body. This eating disorder would become healed if the sufferers, instead of being identified with their mind, could get in touch with their body and so feel the true needs of the body rather than the pseudo needs of the egoic mind. p. 31
  • If you have a compulsive behavior pattern... this is what you can do: When you notice the compulsive need arising in you, stop and take three conscious breaths. This generates awareness. Then for a few minutes be aware of the compulsive urge itself as an energy field inside you. Consciously feel that need to physically or mentally ingest or consume a certain substance or the desire to act out some form of compulsive behavior.
    Then take a few more conscious breaths. After that you may find that the compulsive urge has disappeared for the time being. or you may find that it still overpowers you, and you cannot help but indulge or act it out again. Don't make it into a problem. Make the addiction part of your awareness practice in the way described above.
    As awareness grows, addictive patterns will weaken and eventually dissolve. Remember, however, to catch any thoughts that justify the addictive behavior, sometimes with clever arguments, as they arise in you mind. Ask yourself, Who is talking here? And you will realize the addiction is talking. As long as you know that, as long as you are present as the observer of your mind, it is less likely to trick you into doing what it wants. p. 149
  • Studies using the Cloninger's personality theory suggested that high Harm Avoidance might be relevant to the pathology of anorexia nervosa and high Novelty Seeking and Harm Avoidance to bulimia nervosa.
  • The Ben-Tovim Walker Body Attitudes Questionnaire (BAQ) is a psychometrically sound self-report instrument for assessing women's attitudes towards their own bodies. The BAQ responses of a large sample of patients with eating disorders (ED) diagnosed in accordance with DSM-III-R criteria were compared with those from a normative population and from diverse groups of psychiatrically and physically ill patients. The ED group was distinct, and showed extreme responses in the area of weight and shape concerns. But a better discrimination between the ED and other populations was achieved using subscales that related to 'body disparagement' (an intense loathing of the body) and 'attractiveness', rather than to weight and shape concerns. ED patients may have a more pervasive disturbance in body-related attitudes than is currently widely accepted. Patients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa showed very similar attitudes despite the symptomatic differences between the groups.
  • Women with a history of anorexia nervosa of the binge/purge subtype reported higher levels of loneliness, shyness and feelings of inferiority in adolescence than did women with no history of an eating disorder, and women with a history of bulimia nervosa reported higher levels of shyness. However, this was not true for earlier childhood where such feelings did not differ significantly between groups. This difference could not be accounted for by current depressive disorder, recovery from the eating disorder or level of victimization in adolescence.


  • Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia nervosa, are characterised by abnormal eating behaviour and typical psychopathological features, including fear of fatness, drive for thinness, and body image disturbance. In most patients, there is no detectable focal brain abnormality. Nonetheless, associations of anorexia and bulimia nervosa with history of perinatal complications and head injuries suggest a role of cerebral pathology in some cases. A number of case studies describe eating disorders with intracranial tumours, injuries, or epileptogenic foci. However, many clinical descriptions are limited to changes in appetite and lack psychopathological features characteristic of eating disorders. A previous review of 21 anorexia cases associated with brain tumours found that only three of them fulfilled formal diagnostic criteria. In the present paper, we provide a systematic review of published case reports and highlight those relatively rare cases where typical eating disorders appear to be causally associated with localised brain damage.


  • All dominant models of the eating disorders implicate personality variables in the emergence of weight concerns and the development of specific symptoms such as bingeing and purging. Standardized measures of personality traits and disorders generally confirm clinical descriptions of restricting anorexics as constricted, conforming, and obsessional individuals. A less consistent picture suggesting affective instability and impulsivity has emerged from the assessment of subjects with bulimia nervosa. Considerable heterogeneity exists within eating disorder subtypes, however, and a number of special problems complicate the interpretation of personality data in this population. These include young age at onset, the influence of state variables such as depression and starvation sequelae, denial and distortion in self-report, the instability of subtype diagnoses, and the persistence of residual problems following symptom control.


  • Clinical observation has long suggested a link between personality and eating disorders. Research has consistently linked anorexia (particularly when the patient does not also have bulimic symptoms) to personality traits such as introversion, conformity, perfectionism, rigidity, and obsessive-compulsive features. The picture for bulimia is more mixed. Traits such as perfectionism, shyness, and compliance have consistently emerged in studies of individuals with bulimia or with anorexia, although research has often found bulimic patients to be extroverted, histrionic, and affectively unstable.
  • Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are serious psychiatric illnesses related to disordered eating and distorted body images. They both have significant medical complications associated with the weight loss and malnutrition of anorexia nervosa, as well as from the purging behaviors that characterize bulimia nervosa. No body system is spared from the adverse sequelae of these illnesses, especially as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa become more severe and chronic.

"NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness" (8 January 2015)[edit]

"NAMI National Alliance on Mental Illness", (8 January 2015)

  • Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder. People with bulimia nervosa are overly concerned with their body’s shape and weight and engage in detrimental behaviors in an attempt to control their body image. Bulimia nervosa is often characterized by a destructive pattern of binging (eating too much unhealthy food) and inappropriate, reactionary behaviors to control one’s weight following these episodes.
    Binge eating is the rapid consumption of an unusually-large amount of food in a short period of time. Unlike simple overeating, people who binge feel “out of control” during these episodes. This means that one “cannot stop the urge to eat” once it has begun, even after their stomach is full. Binging may “feel good” initially, but it quickly becomes distressing for the person who is absorbed in this behavior. Food is often eaten secretly and quickly. A binge is usually ended only with abdominal discomfort, social interruption or running out of food. When the binge is over, the person with bulimia often feels guilty and will engage in inappropriate behaviors to rid their body of the excess calories that were eaten.
    Inappropriate behaviors to control one’s weight can include purging. Purging behaviors are potentially dangerous and can consist of a wide variety of actions “to get rid of everything I ate.” This can include self-induced vomiting, the abuse of laxatives, enemas or diuretics (e.g., caffeine). Other behaviors such as “fasting” or restrictive dieting following binge-eating episodes are also common, as well as excessive exercising.
  • Bulimia nervosa is often under-diagnosed because many people who experience this illness may be of normal weight (or even overweight), as opposed to individuals with anorexia nervosa. The typical age of onset for bulimia nervosa is late adolescence or early adulthood, but onset can and does occur at any time throughout the lifespan. Like other eating disorders, bulimia nervosa mainly affects females, although at least one in 10 individuals with this condition is male. Bulimia nervosa is more common than anorexia nervosa and likely occurs in up to three percent of the population. Like all mental illnesses, Bulimia nervosa is found in all racial, religious, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
  • Constant obsession with food and weight is a primary sign of bulimia nervosa. Other important indicators are signs of binging (e.g., hidden candy wrappers under a bed or multiple empty cereal boxes stuffed in a closet) and purging (e.g., boxes of laxatives or enemas stored in one’s desk without a clear medical indication for these products).
    People with bulimia may also experience irregular menstrual periods or depressed mood. These symptoms may cause a person to go to their doctor. Similarly, doctors may also find they are examining their patients for unexplained stomach pain or sore throat before a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa is made.
    Doctors may see common signs of self-induced vomiting including unexplained damage to the teeth (due to the acidity of vomit) and scarring on the backs of the hands and fingers (due to repeatedly pushing fingers down the throat to induce vomiting). A number of people with bulimia will have swollen cheeks (due to damage of their parotid glands).
  • People with bulimia nervosa—even if their weight remains “normal”—can severely damage their bodies by binging and purging. Self-induced vomiting can injure the various parting of the body involved in eating and digesting food: tooth decay, esophageal and stomach injury, and acid reflux are all common in people with bulimia nervosa. Excessive purging behaviors can cause dehydration and changes in the body’s electrolytes (e.g., low potassium). This can lead to multiple problems including cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure and even death.
  • Although the precise causes of bulimia nervosa are unknown, scientists agree that it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with a family history of eating disorders or a personal history of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other illnesses, are more likely to develop bulimia nervosa. Traumatic events (e.g., physical or sexual abuse) as well as life-stressors (including being bullied at school) can also increase the risk of developing bulimia nervosa. While no specific region of the brain has been directly connected with bulimia nervosa, certain chemicals in the brain (e.g., the neurotransmitter serotonin) have been shown to have a relationship with binging and purging behaviors.
  • Many medications have been used to treat symptoms of bulimia nervosa, the specifics of which are beyond the scope of this review. The only FDA approved medication for bulimia nervosa is fluoxetine (Prozac). This medication helps by decreasing the symptoms of bulimia nervosa, but it does not cure the illness. As with any other mental illness, it is important to discuss any medication decisions with one’s psychiatrist and other members of the treatment team.
    With thorough treatment and the support of their loved ones, most people with bulimia nervosa can expect to see a significant decrease in their symptoms and to live healthy lives in absence of serious medical complications. Family members and friends can be most helpful in providing nonjudgmental support of their loved one and by encouraging their loved one to seek treatment for this serious mental illness.

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