Diagnosis of bulimia nervosa
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person diagnosed as bulimic must have all of the disorder's specific symptoms:
- recurrent episodes of binge eating (minimum average of two binge-eating episodes a week for at least three months)
- a feeling of lack of control over eating during the binges
- regular use of one or more of the following to prevent weight gain: self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives or diuretics, strict dieting or fasting, or vigorous exercise
- persistent over-concern with body shape and weight.
When a problem is identified, medical attention should be sought immediately. The doctor will take a complete medical history and conduct a physical exam. Laboratory blood studies, including measurement of electrolyte levels, will be ordered as well. The doctor will ask about eating patterns, looking for such behavior as:
- repeated short episodes of binge eating followed by self- induced vomiting or use of laxatives
- alternate fasting and binging
- secret eating and binging
- exercising excessively to prevent weight gain.
Once the diagnosis is made, early treatment is vital.
Adapted from Food & Drug Administration, 3/00
Last reviewed March 2000 by
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