Bulimia Nervosa

People with Bulimia Nervosa (BN) have episodes of “binge eating” in which they consume a large amount of food in a discrete period of time, often with the feeling of being “out of control.”

In addition, they feel driven to use extreme measures to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. Individuals with BN find that their body shape and weight is centrally important to their sense of well-being and self-esteem, and therefore feel extremely dissatisfied with themselves when they perceive their bodies to be overweight. Although many people suffering from BN do induce vomiting to control their weight, it is possible to have BN and use only other forms of weight control. BN is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, or interpersonal difficulties.

Somewhere between 1-3% of adolescent and young adult females have all of the symptoms of BN at the frequency required to make the diagnosis, however, many more young women and men have some symptoms of the disorder that may come and go during periods of stress or otherwise difficult times. Women are affected by BN in larger numbers than men, although men are increasingly being diagnosed with BN. The male-to-female ratio is estimated at 1:10.

Individuals with BN are often very distressed by the disorder and wish they could stop binge eating and purging. However, they often feel extreme shame over their behavior, and this shame interferes with confiding in friends or seeking help. Because of the mental health and medical consequences of BN-such as cardiac problems, dental damage, and skeletal irregularities-treatment is extremely important. While severe, untreated BN can be fatal, treatment is very often successful.

Symptoms

  • Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging
  • Feeling out of control during a binge and eating beyond the point of comfortable fullness
  • Purging after a binge, (typically by self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diet pills and/or diuretics, excessive exercise, or fasting)
  • Frequent dieting
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape

If these symptoms seem relevant to you, we can help. Feel free to contact us by calling our main desk at (617) 353-9610, or by emailing Bonnie Brown, our nurse administrator, at bonnieb@bu.edu.. Also, if you qualify for one of our ongoing research studies, you may be eligible to receive free treatment as a part of our current research opportunities.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

National Eating Disorders Association Website