Bulimia (boo-LEE-me-uh) nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — eating large amounts of food — and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. For example, someone with bulimia may force vomiting or engage in excessive exercise. Sometimes people purge after eating only a small snack or a normal-size meal.
Bulimia can be categorized in two ways:
- Purging bulimia. You regularly self-induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, diuretics or enemas after bingeing.
- Nonpurging bulimia. You use other methods to rid yourself of calories and prevent weight gain, such as fasting, strict dieting or excessive exercise.
However, these behaviors often overlap, and the attempt to rid yourself of extra calories is usually referred to as purging, no matter what the method.
If you have bulimia, you're probably preoccupied with your weight and body shape. You may judge yourself severely and harshly for your self-perceived flaws. Because it's related to self-image — and not just about food — bulimia can be hard to overcome. But effective treatment can help you feel better about yourself, adopt healthier eating patterns and reverse serious complications.
April 29, 2015
- Bulimia nervosa. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed March 6, 2015.
- Bulimia nervosa. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7638. Accessed March 6, 2015.
- Harrington BC, et al. Initial evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. American Family Physician. 2015;91:46.
- Lock J. An update on evidence-based psychosocial treatments for eating disorders in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 2015;12:1.
- Foreman SF. Eating disorders: Overview of treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 6, 2015.
- Breuner CC. Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: Eating disorders. Pediatrics in Review. 2010;31:e75.
- Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 16, 2015.
- Cook, AJ. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 23, 2015.
- Bulimia — Information prescription. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bulimia/pages/introduction.aspx. Accessed March 6, 2015.
- Sim LA, et al. Identification and treatment of eating disorders in the primary care setting. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:746.
- Grothe K (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 15, 2015.
- Couturier J, et al. Efficacy of family-based treatment for adolescents with eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2013;46:3.
- Campbell K, et al. Eating disorders in children and adolescents: State of the art review. Pediatrics 2014;134:582.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.