Bulimia nervosa, also known as simply bulimia, is an
An eating disorder is a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating behaviors that negatively affect a person's physical or mental health. Only one eating disorder can be diagnosed at a given time. Types of eating disorders include binge eating d ...
characterized by binge eating
followed by purging
or fasting, and excessive concern with body shape and weight.
[ The aim of this activity is to expel the body of calories eaten from the binging phase of the process.] 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
Vomiting (also known as emesis and throwing up) is the involuntary, forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose.
Vomiting can be the result of ailments like food poisoning, gastroenterit ... or taking laxatives. Other efforts to lose weight may include the use of diuretic
A diuretic () is any substance that promotes diuresis, the increased production of urine. This includes forced diuresis. A diuretic tablet is sometimes colloquially called a water tablet. There are several categories of diuretics. All diuretics i ...s, stimulant
Stimulants (also often referred to as psychostimulants or colloquially as uppers) is an overarching term that covers many drugs including those that increase activity of the central nervous system and the body, drugs that are pleasurable and i ...s, water fasting
Fasting is the abstention from eating and sometimes drinking. From a purely physiological context, "fasting" may refer to the metabolic status of a person who has not eaten overnight (see "Breakfast"), or to the metabolic state achieved after co ..., or excessive exercise. Most people with bulimia are at a normal weight. The forcing of vomiting may result in thickened skin on the knuckles, breakdown of the teeth and effects on metabolic rate and caloric intake which cause thyroid dysfunction
Thyroid disease is a medical condition that affects the function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck and produces thyroid hormones that travel through the blood to help regulate many other organs, meaning .... [ Bulimia is frequently associated with other ] mental disorder
A mental disorder, also referred to as a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitt ...s such as depression, anxiety
Anxiety is an emotion which is characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil and includes feelings of dread over anticipated events. Anxiety is different than fear in that the former is defined as the anticipation of a future threat w ..., borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, distorted sense of self, and strong ..., bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental disorder characterized by periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood that last from days to weeks each. If the elevated mood is severe or associated with ... and problems with drugs or alcohol. [ There is also a higher risk of ] suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Mental disorders (including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders), physical disorders (such as chronic fatigue syndrome), and ... and self-harm
Self-harm is intentional behavior that is considered harmful to oneself. This is most commonly regarded as direct injury of one's own skin tissues usually without a suicidal intention. Other terms such as cutting, self-injury and self-mutilatio ....
Bulimia is more common among those who have a close relative with the condition. [ The percentage risk that is estimated to be due to genetics is between 30% and 80%.] [ Other risk factors for the disease include psychological stress, cultural pressure to attain a certain body type, poor self-esteem, and ] obesity
Obesity is a medical condition, sometimes considered a disease, in which excess body fat has accumulated to such an extent that it may negatively affect health. People are classified as obese when their body mass index (BMI)—a person's .... [ Living in a culture that commercializes or glamorizes ] dieting
Dieting is the practice of eating food in a regulated way to decrease, maintain, or increase body weight, or to prevent and treat diseases such as diabetes and obesity. As weight loss depends on calorie intake, different kinds of calorie-red ... and having parental figures who fixate about weight are also risks. [ Diagnosis is based on a person's medical history;] however, this is difficult, as people are usually secretive about their binge eating and purging habits. [ Further, the diagnosis of ] anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, food restriction, body image disturbance, fear of gaining weight, and an overpowering desire to be thin. ''Anorexia'' is a term of Gr ... takes precedence over that of bulimia. [ Other similar disorders include ] binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by frequent and recurrent binge eating episodes with associated negative psychological and social problems, but without the compensatory behaviors common to bulimia nervosa, OSFED ..., Kleine–Levin syndrome, and borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, distorted sense of self, and strong .... [
Signs and symptoms
Bulimia typically involves rapid and out-of-control eating, which may stop when the person is interrupted by another person or the stomach hurts from over-extension, followed by self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging. This cycle may be repeated several times a week or, in more serious cases, several times a day and may directly cause:
* Chronic ] gastric reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is one of the upper gastrointestinal chronic diseases where stomach content persistently and regularly flows up into the esophagus, resulting in symptoms and/ ... after eating, secondary to vomiting
In physiology, dehydration is a lack of total body water, with an accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. It occurs when free water loss exceeds free water intake, usually due to exercise, disease, or high environmental temperature. Mi ... and hypokalemia
Hypokalemia is a low level of potassium (K+) in the blood serum. Mild low potassium does not typically cause symptoms. Symptoms may include feeling tired, leg cramps, weakness, and constipation. Low potassium also increases the risk of an ab ... due to renal potassium loss in the presence of alkalosis and frequent vomiting
* Electrolyte imbalance
Electrolyte imbalance, or water-electrolyte imbalance, is an abnormality in the concentration of electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes play a vital role in maintaining homeostasis in the body. They help to regulate heart and neurological function, ..., which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, cardiac arrest
Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. It is a medical emergency that, without immediate medical intervention, will result in sudden cardiac death within minutes. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and poss ..., and even death
* Esophagitis, or inflammation
Inflammation (from la, inflammatio) is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants, and is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molec ... of the esophagus
The esophagus (American English) or oesophagus (British English; both ), non-technically known also as the food pipe or gullet, is an organ in vertebrates through which food passes, aided by peristaltic contractions, from the pharynx to the ...
* Mallory-Weiss tears
* Boerhaave syndrome
Esophageal rupture is a rupture of the esophageal wall. Iatrogenic causes account for approximately 56% of esophageal perforations, usually due to medical instrumentation such as an endoscopy or paraesophageal surgery. In contrast, the term Boerh ..., a rupture in the esophageal wall due to vomiting
* Oral trauma, in which repetitive insertion of fingers or other objects causes lacerations to the lining of the mouth or throat
* Russell's sign
Russell's sign, named after British psychiatrist Gerald Russell, is a sign defined as calluses on the knuckles or back of the hand due to repeated self-induced vomiting over long periods of time. The condition generally arises from the patient' ...: callus
A callus is an area of thickened and sometimes hardened skin that forms as a response to repeated friction, pressure, or other irritation. Since repeated contact is required, calluses are most often found on the feet and hands, but they may o ...es on knuckles and back of hands due to repeated trauma from incisors
Acid erosion is a type of tooth wear. It is defined as the irreversible loss of tooth structure due to chemical dissolution by acids not of bacterial origin. Dental erosion is the most common chronic condition of children ages 5–17, althou ..., or severe dental erosion of tooth enamel
* Swollen salivary gland
The salivary glands in mammals are exocrine glands that produce saliva through a system of ducts. Humans have three paired major salivary glands ( parotid, submandibular, and sublingual), as well as hundreds of minor salivary glands. Salivary g ...s (for example, in the neck, under the jaw line)
Gastroparesis (gastro- from Ancient Greek γαστήρ – gaster, "stomach"; and -paresis, πάρεσις – "partial paralysis"), also called delayed gastric emptying, is a medical disorder consisting of weak muscular contractions (peristalsis) ..., or delayed gastric emptying
Constipation is a bowel dysfunction that makes bowel movements infrequent or hard to pass. The stool is often hard and dry. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, and feeling as if one has not completely passed the bowel movement ... or diarrhea
Diarrhea, also spelled diarrhoea, is the condition of having at least three loose, liquid, or watery bowel movements each day. It often lasts for a few days and can result in dehydration due to fluid loss. Signs of dehydration often begin w ...
Tachycardia, also called tachyarrhythmia, is a heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate. In general, a resting heart rate over 100 beats per minute is accepted as tachycardia in adults. Heart rates above the resting rate may be normal (su ... or palpitations
Palpitations are perceived abnormalities of the heartbeat characterized by awareness of cardiac muscle contractions in the chest, which is further characterized by the hard, fast and/or irregular beatings of the heart.
Symptoms include a rapi ...
Hypotension is low blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. Blood pressure is indicated by two numbers, the systolic blood pressure (the top number) and the dia ...
* Peptic ulcers
Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) is a break in the inner lining of the stomach, the first part of the small intestine, or sometimes the lower esophagus. An ulcer in the stomach is called a gastric ulcer, while one in the first part of the intestines ...
* Constant weight fluctuations are common
* Elevated blood sugar
Glycaemia, also known as blood sugar level, blood sugar concentration, or blood glucose level is the measure of glucose concentrated in the blood of humans or other animals. Approximately 4 grams of glucose, a simple sugar, is present in the blo ..., cholesterol
Cholesterol is any of a class of certain organic molecules called lipids. It is a sterol (or modified steroid), a type of lipid. Cholesterol is biosynthesized by all animal cells and is an essential structural component of animal cell mem ..., and amylase
An amylase () is an enzyme that catalyses the hydrolysis of starch (Latin ') into sugars. Amylase is present in the saliva of humans and some other mammals, where it begins the chemical process of digestion. Foods that contain large amount ... levels may occur
Hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, is a fall in blood sugar to levels below normal, typically below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L). Whipple's triad is used to properly identify hypoglycemic episodes. It is defined as blood glucose belo ... may occur after vomiting
These are some of the many signs that may indicate whether someone has bulimia nervosa:
* A fixation on the number of calories consumed
* A fixation on and extreme consciousness of one's weight
* Low self-esteem and/or self-harming
Self-harm is intentional behavior that is considered harmful to oneself. This is most commonly regarded as direct injury of one's own skin tissues usually without a suicidal intention. Other terms such as cutting, self-injury and self-mutilatio ...
* Suicidal tendencies
* An irregular menstrual cycle in women
* Regular trips to the bathroom, especially soon after eating
* Depression, anxiety disorders and sleep disorders
* Frequent occurrences involving consumption of abnormally large portions of food
* The use of laxatives, diuretic
A diuretic () is any substance that promotes diuresis, the increased production of urine. This includes forced diuresis. A diuretic tablet is sometimes colloquially called a water tablet. There are several categories of diuretics. All diuretics i ...s, and diet pills
Anti-obesity medication or weight loss medications are pharmacological agents that reduce or control weight. These medications alter one of the fundamental processes of the human body, weight regulation, by altering either appetite, or absorp ...
* Compulsive or excessive exercise
* Unhealthy/dry skin, hair, nails, and lips
* Fatigue, or exhaustion
As with many psychiatric illnesses, delusions can occur, in conjunction with other signs and symptoms, leaving the person with a false belief that is not ordinarily accepted by others.
People with bulimia nervosa may also exercise to a point that excludes other activities. [
People with bulimia exhibit several interoceptive deficits, in which one experiences impairment in recognizing and discriminating between internal sensations, feelings, and emotions.
People with bulimia may also react negatively to somatic and affective states. In relation to interoceptive sensitivity, hyposensitive individuals may not detect feelings of fullness in a normal and timely fashion, and therefore are prone to eating more calories.
Examining from a neural basis also connects elements of interoception and emotion; notable overlaps occur in the medial prefrontal cortex
In mammalian brain anatomy, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) covers the front part of the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex. The PFC contains the Brodmann areas BA8, BA9, BA10, BA11, BA12, BA13, BA14, BA24, BA25, BA32, BA44, BA45, BA ..., anterior and posterior cingulate, and anterior insula cortices, which are linked to both interoception and emotional eating.
People with bulimia are at a higher risk to have an affective disorder, such as depression or general anxiety disorder. One study found 70% had depression at some time in their lives (as opposed to 26% for adult females in the general population), rising to 88% for all affective disorders combined. Another study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that of the population of patients that were diagnosed with an eating disorder according to the DSM-V guidelines about 27% also suffered from bipolar disorder. Within this article, the majority of the patients were diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, the second most common condition reported was binge-eating disorder.Some individuals with anorexia nervosa exhibit episodes of bulimic tendencies through purging (either through self-induced vomiting or laxatives) as a way to quickly remove food in their system. There may be an increased risk for
diabetes mellitus type 2
Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset diabetes, is a form of diabetes mellitus that is characterized by high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and relative lack of insulin. Common symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urinat .... Bulimia also has negative effects on a person's teeth due to the acid passed through the mouth from frequent vomiting causing acid erosion, mainly on the posterior dental surface.
Research has shown that there is a relationship between bulimia and narcissism
Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterized as having an excessive interest in one's physical appearance or image and an excessive preoccupation with one's own needs, often at the expense of others.
Narcissism exists on a co .... According to a study by the Australian National University
The Australian National University (ANU) is a public research university located in Canberra, the capital of Australia. Its main campus in Acton encompasses seven teaching and research colleges, in addition to several national academies an ..., eating disorders are more susceptible among vulnerable narcissists. This can be caused by a childhood in which inner feelings and thoughts were minimized by parents, leading to "a high focus on receiving validation from others to maintain a positive sense of self". [
The medical journal ''Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation'' notes that a "substantial rate of patients with bulimia nervosa" also have Borderline personality disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD), also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), is a personality disorder characterized by a long-term pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships, distorted sense of self, and strong ....
A study by the Psychopharmacology Research Program of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine "leaves little doubt that bipolar and eating disorders—particularly bulimia nervosa and bipolar II disorder—are related." The research shows that most clinical studies indicate that patients with bipolar disorder have higher rates of eating disorders, and vice versa. There is overlap in phenomenology, course, comorbidity, family history, and pharmacologic treatment response of these disorders. This is especially true of "eating dysregulation, mood dysregulation, impulsivity and compulsivity, craving for activity and/or exercise."
Studies have shown a relationship between bulimia's effect on metabolic rate and caloric intake with thyroid dysfunction
Thyroid disease is a medical condition that affects the function of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck and produces thyroid hormones that travel through the blood to help regulate many other organs, meaning ....
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, food restriction, body image disturbance, fear of gaining weight, and an overpowering desire to be thin. ''Anorexia'' is a term of Gr ..., there is evidence of genetic predispositions contributing to the onset of this eating disorder. Abnormal levels of many hormones, notably serotonin
Serotonin () or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is a monoamine neurotransmitter. Its biological function is complex and multifaceted, modulating mood, cognition, reward, learning, memory, and numerous physiological processes such as vomiting and va ..., have been shown to be responsible for some disordered eating behaviors. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), or abrineurin, is a protein found in the and the periphery. that, in humans, is encoded by the ''BDNF'' gene. BDNF is a member of the neurotrophin family of growth factors, which are related to the can ... (BDNF) is under investigation as a possible mechanism.
There is evidence that sex hormones may influence appetite and eating in women and the onset of bulimia nervosa. Studies have shown that women with hyperandrogenism
Hyperandrogenism is a medical condition characterized by high levels of androgens. It is more common in women than men. Symptoms of hyperandrogenism may include acne, seborrhea (inflamed skin), hair loss on the scalp, increased body or facia ... and polycystic ovary syndrome have a dysregulation of appetite, along with carbohydrates and fats. This dysregulation of appetite is also seen in women with bulimia nervosa. In addition, gene knockout studies in mice have shown that mice that have the gene encoding estrogen
Estrogen or oestrogen is a category of sex hormone responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics. There are three major endogenous estrogens that have estrogenic hormonal ac ... receptors have decreased fertility due to ovarian dysfunction and dysregulation of androgen
An androgen (from Greek ''andr-'', the stem of the word meaning "man") is any natural or synthetic steroid hormone that regulates the development and maintenance of male characteristics in vertebrates by binding to androgen receptors. This inc ... receptors. In humans, there is evidence that there is an association between polymorphisms in the ERβ ( estrogen receptor
Estrogen receptors (ERs) are a group of proteins found inside cells. They are receptors that are activated by the hormone estrogen ( 17β-estradiol). Two classes of ER exist: nuclear estrogen receptors ( ERα and ERβ), which are members of t ... β) and bulimia, suggesting there is a correlation between sex hormones and bulimia nervosa.
Bulimia has been compared to drug addiction, though the empirical support for this characterization is limited. However, people with bulimia nervosa may share dopamine D2 receptor-related vulnerabilities with those with substance use disorder
Substance use disorder (SUD) is the persistent use of drugs (including alcohol) despite substantial harm and adverse consequences as a result of their use. Substance use disorders are characterized by an array of mental/emotional, physical, and ...s.
Dieting, a common behaviour in bulimics, is associated with lower plasma tryptophan levels. Decreased tryptophan levels in the brain, and thus the synthesis of serotonin, such as via acute tryptophan depletion Acute tryptophan depletion (ATD) is a technique used extensively to study the effect of low serotonin in the brain. This experimental approach reduces the availability of tryptophan, an amino acid
Amino acids are organic compounds that conta ..., increases bulimic urges in currently and formerly bulimic individuals within hours.
Abnormal blood levels of peptides important for the regulation of appetite and energy balance are observed in individuals with bulimia nervosa, but it remains unknown if this is a state or trait.
In recent years, evolutionary psychiatry
Evolutionary psychiatry, also known as Darwinian psychiatry, is a theoretical approach to psychiatry that aims to explain psychiatric disorders in evolutionary terms. A branch of the field of evolutionary medicine, it is distinct from the medica ... as an emerging scientific discipline has been studying mental disorder
A mental disorder, also referred to as a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing and remitt ...s from an evolutionary perspective. If eating disorders, Bulimia nervosa in particular, have evolutionary functions or if they are new modern "lifestyle" problems is still debated.
Media portrayals of an 'ideal' body shape are widely considered to be a contributing factor to bulimia.
[ In a 1991 study by Weltzin, Hsu, Pollicle, and Kaye, it was stated that 19% of bulimics undereat, 37% of bulimics eat an average or normal amount of food, and 44% of bulimics overeat. A survey of 15- to 18-year-old high school girls in Nadroga, ] Fiji
Fiji ( , ,; fj, Viti, ; Fiji Hindi: फ़िजी, ''Fijī''), officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about north-northeast of New Zealand. Fiji consi ..., found the self-reported incidence of purging rose from 0% in 1995 (a few weeks after the introduction of television in the province) to 11.3% in 1998. In addition, the suicide rate among people with bulimia nervosa is 7.5 times higher than in the general population.
When attempting to decipher the origin of bulimia nervosa in a cognitive context, Christopher Fairburn ''et al.''s cognitive-behavioral model is often considered the golden standard. Fairburn et al.'s model discusses the process in which an individual falls into the binge-purge cycle and thus develops bulimia. Fairburn ''et al.'' argue that extreme concern with weight and shape coupled with low self-esteem will result in strict, rigid, and inflexible dietary rules. Accordingly, this would lead to unrealistically restricted eating, which may consequently induce an eventual "slip" where the individual commits a minor infraction of the strict and inflexible dietary rules. Moreover, the cognitive distortion due to dichotomous thinking leads the individual to binge. The binge subsequently should trigger a perceived loss of control, promoting the individual to purge in hope of counteracting the binge. However, Fairburn ''et al.'' assert the cycle repeats itself, and thus consider the binge-purge cycle to be self-perpetuating.
In contrast, Byrne and Mclean's findings differed slightly from Fairburn ''et al.''s cognitive-behavioral model of bulimia nervosa in that the drive for thinness was the major cause of purging as a way of controlling weight. In turn, Byrne and Mclean argued that this makes the individual vulnerable to binging, indicating that it is not a binge-purge cycle but rather a purge-binge cycle in that purging comes before bingeing. Similarly, Fairburn ''et al.''s cognitive-behavioral model of bulimia nervosa is not necessarily applicable to every individual and is certainly reductionist. Every one differs from another, and taking such a complex behavior like bulimia and applying the same one theory to everyone would certainly be invalid. In addition, the cognitive-behavioral model of bulimia nervosa is very culturally bound in that it may not be necessarily applicable to cultures outside of Western society. To evaluate, Fairburn ''et al.''.'s model and more generally the cognitive explanation of bulimia nervosa is more descriptive than explanatory, as it does not necessarily explain how bulimia arises. Furthermore, it is difficult to ascertain cause and effect, because it may be that distorted eating leads to distorted cognition rather than vice versa.
A considerable amount of literature has identified a correlation between sexual abuse and the development of bulimia nervosa. The reported incident rate of unwanted sexual contact is higher among those with bulimia nervosa than anorexia nervosa.
When exploring the etiology of bulimia through a socio-cultural perspective, the "thin ideal internalization" is significantly responsible. The thin-ideal internalization is the extent to which individuals adapt to the societal ideals of attractiveness. Studies have shown that young women that read fashion magazines tend to have more bulimic symptoms than those women who do not. This further demonstrates the impact of media on the likelihood of developing the disorder. Individuals first accept and "buy into" the ideals, and then attempt to transform themselves in order to reflect the societal ideals of attractiveness. J. Kevin Thompson and Eric Stice claim that family, peers, and most evidently media reinforce the thin ideal, which may lead to an individual accepting and "buying into" the thin ideal. In turn, Thompson and Stice assert that if the thin ideal is accepted, one could begin to feel uncomfortable with their body shape or size since it may not necessarily reflect the thin ideal set out by society. Thus, people feeling uncomfortable with their bodies may result in body dissatisfaction and may develop a certain drive for thinness. Consequently, body dissatisfaction coupled with a drive for thinness is thought to promote dieting and negative effects, which could eventually lead to bulimic symptoms such as purging or bingeing. Binges lead to self-disgust which causes purging to prevent weight gain.
A study dedicated to investigating the thin ideal internalization as a factor of bulimia nervosa is Thompson's and Stice's research. Their study aimed to investigate how and to what degree media affects the thin ideal internalization. Thompson and Stice used randomized experiments (more specifically programs) dedicated to teaching young women how to be more critical when it comes to media, to reduce thin-ideal internalization. The results showed that by creating more awareness of the media's control of the societal ideal of attractiveness, the thin ideal internalization significantly dropped. In other words, less thin ideal images portrayed by the media resulted in less thin-ideal internalization. Therefore, Thompson and Stice concluded that media greatly affected the thin ideal internalization. Papies showed that it is not the thin ideal itself, but rather the self-association with other persons of a certain weight that decide how someone with bulimia nervosa feels. People that associate themselves with thin models get in a positive attitude when they see thin models and people that associate with overweight get in a negative attitude when they see thin models. Moreover, it can be taught to associate with thinner people.
The onset of bulimia nervosa is often during adolescence, between 13 and 20 years of age, and many cases have previously experienced obesity, with many relapsing in adulthood into episodic bingeing and purging even after initially successful treatment and remission. A lifetime
In epidemiology, prevalence is the proportion of a particular population found to be affected by a medical condition (typically a disease or a risk factor such as smoking or seatbelt use) at a specific time. It is derived by comparing the number ... of 0.5 percent and 0.9 percent for adults and adolescents, respectively, is estimated among the United States population. Bulimia nervosa may affect up to 1% of young women and, after 10 years of diagnosis, half will recover fully, a third will recover partially, and 10–20% will still have symptoms. [
Adolescents with bulimia nervosa are more likely to have self-imposed perfectionism and compulsivity issues in eating compared to their peers. This means that the high expectations and unrealistic goals that these individuals set for themselves are internally motivated rather than by social views or expectations.
Bulimia nervosa can be difficult to detect, compared to
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, food restriction, body image disturbance, fear of gaining weight, and an overpowering desire to be thin. ''Anorexia'' is a term of Gr ..., because bulimics tend to be of average or slightly above average weight. Many bulimics may also engage in significantly disordered eating and exercise patterns without meeting the full diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa. Recently, the '' Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'' (DSM; latest edition: DSM-5-TR, published in March 2022) is a publication by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for the classification of mental disorders using a common langu ...'' was revised, which resulted in the loosening of criteria regarding the diagnoses of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. The diagnostic criteria utilized by the DSM-5 includes repetitive episodes of binge eating (a discrete episode of overeating during which the individual feels out of control of consumption) compensated for by excessive or inappropriate measures taken to avoid gaining weight. The diagnosis also requires the episodes of compensatory behaviors and binge eating to happen a minimum of once a week for a consistent time period of 3 months. The diagnosis is made only when the behavior is not a part of the symptom complex of anorexia nervosa and when the behavior reflects an overemphasis on physical mass or appearance. Purging often is a common characteristic of a more severe case of bulimia nervosa.
There are two main types of treatment given to those with bulimia nervosa; psychopharmacological and psychosocial treatments.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the primary treatment for bulimia.
Antidepressants are a class of medication used to treat major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, chronic pain conditions, and to help manage addictions. Common side-effects of antidepressants include dry mouth, weight gain, dizziness, head ... of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions.
SSRIs increase the extracell ... (SSRI) or tricyclic antidepressant
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are a class of medications that are used primarily as antidepressants, which is important for the management of depression. They are second-line drugs next to SSRIs. TCAs were discovered in the early 1950s and we ... classes may have a modest benefit. While outcomes with bulimia are typically better than in those with anorexia, the risk of death among those affected is higher than that of the general population. At 10 years after receiving treatment about 50% of people are fully recovered.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves teaching a person to challenge automatic thoughts and engage in behavioral experiments (for example, in session eating of "forbidden foods") has a small amount of evidence supporting its use.
By using CBT people record how much food they eat and periods of vomiting with the purpose of identifying and avoiding emotional fluctuations that bring on episodes of bulimia on a regular basis. Barker (2003) states that research has found 40–60% of people using cognitive behaviour therapy to become symptom free. He states in order for the therapy to work, all parties must work together to discuss, record and develop coping strategies. Barker (2003) claims by making people aware of their actions they will think of alternatives. People undergoing CBT who exhibit early behavioral changes are most likely to achieve the best treatment outcomes in the long run. Researchers have also reported some positive outcomes for interpersonal psychotherapy and dialectical behavior therapy.
Maudsley family therapy, developed at the Maudsley Hospital in London for the treatment of anorexia, has been shown promising results in bulimia.
The use of CBT has been shown to be quite effective for treating bulimia nervosa (BN) in adults, but little research has been done on effective treatments of BN for adolescents. Although CBT is seen as more cost-efficient and helps individuals with BN in self-guided care, Family Based Treatment (FBT) might be more helpful to younger adolescents who need more support and guidance from their families. Adolescents are at the stage where their brains are still quite malleable and developing gradually. Therefore, young adolescents with BN are less likely to realize the detrimental consequences of becoming bulimic and have less motivation to change, which is why FBT would be useful to have families intervene and support the teens. Working with BN patients and their families in FBT can empower the families by having them involved in their adolescent's food choices and behaviors, taking more control of the situation in the beginning and gradually letting the adolescent become more autonomous when they have learned healthier eating habits.
''Participating in some sort of therapy can be the best medication for bulimia.'' Antidepressants of the
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of drugs that are typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and other psychological conditions.
SSRIs increase the extracell ...s (SSRI) class may have a modest benefit. [ This includes ] fluoxetine
Fluoxetine, sold under the brand names Prozac and Sarafem, among others, is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. It is used for the treatment of major depressive disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorde ..., ''also known as prozac,'' which is FDA approved, for the treatment of bulimia, other antidepressants such as sertraline
Sertraline, sold under the brand name Zoloft among others, is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. The efficacy of sertraline for depression is similar to that of other antidepressants, and the differe ... may also be effective against bulimia. Topiramate may also be useful but has greater side effects. [ Compared to placebo, the use of a single antidepressant has been shown to be effective.] Combining medication with counseling can improve outcomes in some circumstances. Some positive outcomes of treatments can include: abstinence from binge eating, a decrease in obsessive behaviors to lose weight and in shape preoccupation, less severe psychiatric symptoms, a desire to counter the effects of binge eating, as well as an improvement in social functioning and reduced relapse rates. [
Some researchers have also claimed positive outcomes in
Hypnotherapy is a type of mind–body intervention in which hypnosis is used to create a state of focused attention and increased suggestibility in the treatment of a medical or psychological disorder or concern. Popularized by 17th and 18th ce .... ''The first use of hypnotherapy in Bulimic patients was in 1981. When it comes to hypnotherapy, Bulimic patients are easier to hypnotize than Anorexia Nervosa patients. In Bulimic patients, hypnotherapy focuses on learning self-control when it comes to binging and vomiting, strengthening stimulus control techniques, enhancing ones ego, improving weight control, and helping overweight patients see their body differently (have a different image).''
Being female and having bulimia nervosa takes a toll on mental health. Women frequently reported an onset of anxiety at the same time of the onset of bulimia nervosa. Another concern with eating disorders is developing a coexisting
substance use disorder
Substance use disorder (SUD) is the persistent use of drugs (including alcohol) despite substantial harm and adverse consequences as a result of their use. Substance use disorders are characterized by an array of mental/emotional, physical, and ....
There is little data on the percentage of people with bulimia in general populations. Most studies conducted thus far have been on convenience samples from hospital patients, high school or university students. These have yielded a wide range of results: between 0.1% and 1.4% of males, and between 0.3% and 9.4% of females.
Studies on time trends in the prevalence of bulimia nervosa have also yielded inconsistent results. According to Gelder, Mayou and Geddes (2005) bulimia nervosa is prevalent between 1 and 2 percent of women aged 15–40 years. Bulimia nervosa occurs more frequently in developed countries and in cities, with one study finding that bulimia is five times more prevalent in cities than in rural areas. There is a perception that bulimia is most prevalent amongst girls from middle-class families; however, in a 2009 study girls from families in the lowest income bracket studied were 153 percent more likely to be bulimic than girls from the highest income bracket.
There are higher rates of eating disorder
An eating disorder is a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating behaviors that negatively affect a person's physical or mental health. Only one eating disorder can be diagnosed at a given time. Types of eating disorders include binge eating d ...s in groups involved in activities which idealize a slim physique, such as dance, gymnastics, modeling, cheerleading
Cheerleading is an activity in which the participants (called cheerleaders) cheer for their team as a form of encouragement. It can range from chanting slogans to intense physical activity. It can be performed to motivate sports teams, to ente ..., running, acting, swimming, diving, rowing and figure skating
Figure skating is a sport in which individuals, pairs, or groups perform on figure skates on ice. It was the first winter sport to be included in the Olympic Games, when contested at the 1908 Olympics in London. The Olympic disciplines are .... Bulimia is thought to be more prevalent among Caucasians; however, a more recent study showed that African-American teenage girls were 50 percent more likely than Caucasian girls to exhibit bulimic behavior, including both binging and purging.
The term ''bulimia'' comes from
Greek may refer to:
Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe:
*Greeks, an ethnic group.
*Greek language, a branch of the Indo-European language family.
**Proto-Greek language, the assumed last common ancestor ... ''boulīmia'', "ravenous hunger", a compound of βοῦς ''bous'', "ox" and λιμός, ''līmos'', "hunger". Literally, the scientific name of the disorder, ''bulimia nervosa'', translates to "nervous ravenous hunger".
Before the 20th century
Although diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa did not appear until 1979, evidence suggests that binging and purging were popular in certain ancient cultures. The first documented account of behavior resembling bulimia nervosa was recorded in Xenophon's Anabasis around 370 B.C, in which Greek soldiers purged themselves in the mountains of
Anatolia, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau, also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It constitutes the major part of modern-day Turkey. The re .... It is unclear whether this purging was preceded by binging. [Giannini, A. J. (1993). "A history of bulimia". In ''The Eating disorders'' (pp. 18–21). Springer New York.] In ancient Egypt, physicians recommended purging once a month for three days to preserve health. [Russell, G. (1997). ''The history of bulimia nervosa''. D. Garner & P. Garfinkel (Eds.), Handbook of Treatment for Eating Disorders (2nd ed., pp. 11–24). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.] This practice stemmed from the belief that human diseases were caused by the food itself. In ancient Rome, elite society members would vomit to "make room" in their stomachs for more food at all-day banquets. Emperors Claudius and Vitellius
Aulus Vitellius (; ; 24 September 1520 December 69) was Roman emperor for eight months, from 19 April to 20 December AD 69. Vitellius was proclaimed emperor following the quick succession of the previous emperors Galba and Otho, in a year of c ... both were gluttonous and obese, and they often resorted to habitual purging.
Historical records also suggest that some saints who developed anorexia
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, food restriction, body image disturbance, fear of gaining weight, and an overpowering desire to be thin. ''Anorexia'' is a term of Gre ... (as a result of a life of asceticism) may also have displayed bulimic behaviors. Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi (1566–1607) and Saint Veronica Giuliani (1660–1727) were both observed binge eating—giving in, as they believed, to the temptations of the devil. Saint Catherine of Siena (1347–1380) is known to have supplemented her strict abstinence from food by purging as reparation for her sins. Catherine died from starvation at age thirty-three.
While the psychological disorder "bulimia nervosa" is relatively new, the word "bulimia", signifying overeating, has been present for centuries. The Babylon Talmud
The Talmud (; he, , Talmūḏ) is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the center ... referenced practices of "bulimia", yet scholars believe that this simply referred to overeating without the purging or the psychological implications bulimia nervosa. In fact, a search for evidence of bulimia nervosa from the 17th to late 19th century revealed that only a quarter of the overeating cases they examined actually vomited after the binges. There was no evidence of deliberate vomiting or an attempt to control weight.
Globally, bulimia was estimated to affect 3.6 million people in 2015.
About 1% of young women have bulimia at a given point in time and about 2% to 3% of women have the condition at some point in their lives. The condition is less common in the developing world. Bulimia is about nine times more likely to occur in women than men. Among women, rates are highest in young adults. Bulimia was named and first described by the British psychiatrist Gerald Russell
Gerald Francis Morris Russell (12 January 1928 – 26 July 2018) was a British psychiatrist. In 1979 he published one of the first descriptions of bulimia nervosa, and Russell's sign has been named after him.
Early life and education
Gerald ... in 1979.
At the turn of the century, bulimia (overeating) was described as a clinical symptom, but rarely in the context of weight control. Purging, however, was seen in anorexic patients and attributed to gastric pain rather than another method of weight control.
In 1930, admissions of anorexia nervosa patients to the Mayo Clinic
The Mayo Clinic () is a nonprofit American academic medical center focused on integrated health care, education, and research. It employs over 4,500 physicians and scientists, along with another 58,400 administrative and allied health s ... from 1917 to 1929 were compiled. Fifty-five to sixty-five percent of these patients were reported to be voluntarily vomiting to relieve weight anxiety. Records show that purging for weight control continued throughout the mid-1900s. Several case studies from this era reveal patients with the modern description of bulimia nervosa. In 1939, Rahman and Richardson reported that out of their six anorexic patients, one had periods of overeating, and another practiced self-induced vomiting. Wulff, in 1932, treated "Patient D", who would have periods of intense cravings for food and overeat for weeks, which often resulted in frequent vomiting. Patient D, who grew up with a tyrannical father, was repulsed by her weight and would fast for a few days, rapidly losing weight. Ellen West
Ellen West (1888–1921) was a patient of Dr. Ludwig Binswanger who had anorexia nervosa. She became a famous example of existential analysis who died by suicide at age 33 by poisoning herself.
Ellen West was born to a Jewish family in 1888 ..., a patient described by Ludwig Binswanger
Ludwig Binswanger (; ; 13 April 1881 – 5 February 1966) was a Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of existential psychology. His parents were Robert Johann Binswanger (1850–1910) and Bertha Hasenclever (1847–1896). Robert's Ge ... in 1958, was teased by friends for being fat and excessively took thyroid pills to lose weight, later using laxatives and vomiting. She reportedly consumed dozens of oranges and several pounds of tomatoes each day, yet would skip meals. After being admitted to a psychiatric facility for depression, Ellen ate ravenously yet lost weight, presumably due to self-induced vomiting. However, while these patients may have met modern criteria for bulimia nervosa, they cannot technically be diagnosed with the disorder, as it had not yet appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'' (DSM; latest edition: DSM-5-TR, published in March 2022) is a publication by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for the classification of mental disorders using a common langu ... at the time of their treatment.
An explanation for the increased instances of bulimic symptoms may be due to the 20th century's new ideals of thinness. The shame of being fat emerged in the 1940s when teasing remarks about weight became more common. The 1950s, however, truly introduced the trend of aspiration for thinness.
In 1979, Gerald Russell
Gerald Francis Morris Russell (12 January 1928 – 26 July 2018) was a British psychiatrist. In 1979 he published one of the first descriptions of bulimia nervosa, and Russell's sign has been named after him.
Early life and education
Gerald ... first published a description of bulimia nervosa, in which he studied patients with a "morbid fear of becoming fat" who overate and purged afterward. [ He specified treatment options and indicated the seriousness of the disease, which can be accompanied by depression and suicide.] [ In 1980, bulimia nervosa first appeared in the DSM-III.] [
After its appearance in the DSM-III, there was a sudden rise in the documented incidents of bulimia nervosa.] In the early 1980s, incidents of the disorder rose to about 40 in every 100,000 people. This decreased to about 27 in every 100,000 people at the end of the 1980s/early 1990s. However, bulimia nervosa's prevalence was still much higher than anorexia nervosa's, which at the time occurred in about 14 people per 100,000.
In 1991, Kendler et al. documented the cumulative risk for bulimia nervosa for those born before 1950, from 1950 to 1959, and after 1959. The risk for those born after 1959 is much higher than those in either of the other cohorts.
Anorectic Behavior Observation Scale The Anorectic Behavior Observation Scale (ABOS) is a thirty-item diagnostic questionnaire devised to be answered by the parents, spouse or other family member of an individual suspected of having an eating disorder. It was developed by Vandereyken ' ...
* Eating recovery Eating recovery refers to the full spectrum of care that acknowledges and treats the multiple etiologies of anorexia nervosa and bulimia, including the biological, psychological, social and emotional causes of the disorder, through a comprehensive, ...
* Evolutionary psychiatry
Evolutionary psychiatry, also known as Darwinian psychiatry, is a theoretical approach to psychiatry that aims to explain psychiatric disorders in evolutionary terms. A branch of the field of evolutionary medicine, it is distinct from the medica ...
* Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by frequent and recurrent binge eating episodes with associated negative psychological and social problems, but without the compensatory behaviors common to bulimia nervosa, OSFED ...
* List of people with bulimia nervosa
This is a list of notable people who have had bulimia nervosa. Often simply known as ''bulimia'', this is an eating disorder which is characterized by consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time, followed by an attempt to rid onesel ...
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