Bulimia nervosa

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Psychiatry

Clinical Definition

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of excessive overeating, followed by a variety of compensatory actions to avoid weight gain, including vomitting, laxatives, fasting or immoderate exercise. 

In Our Own Words

Bulima nervosa sufferers fear gaining weight and are very unhappy with their body image. They are often perfectionists with low self-esteem. To rid themselves of excess calories caused by binge eating, they purge by self-induced vomitting, use of laxatives or diuretics, excessive exercise or periods of calorie deprivation.


Affecting mostly adolescent girls and young women, bulima nervosa is hard to diagnose, since many who suffer from the eating disorder are ashamed of their eating behavior and eat and purge privately. In addition, bulimics are often of normal weight.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling and support groups are treatments for this eating disorder. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Depression
  • Tooth decay
  • Osteoporosis
Common Types
  • Purging
  • Non-Purging
Side Effects
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Binge eating, usually in secret
  • Denial of hunger
  • Broken blood vessels in eyes
  • Swollen salivary glands
Share this article
  • The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. “Treating bulimia nervosa.” http://www.health.harvard.edu. Accessed October 2013.
  • Austin S., ScD, Ziyadeh N., MPH, Forman S., MD, et al. “Screening High School Students for Eating Disorders: Results of a National Initiative.” Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy. 2008; 5 (4). http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2008/oct/pdf/07_0164.pdf. Accessed October 2013.
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. “Bulimia Nervosa.” http://www.anad.org/get-information/bulimia-nervosa. Accessed October 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). “Guidelines for School Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating.” http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00042446.htm. Accessed October 2013.
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