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Diagnosis of bulimia nervosa

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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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 ]]>EBSCO Publishing Editorial Staff]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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