Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If your doctor suspects you have bulimia, he or she will typically perform:

  • A complete physical exam
  • Blood and urine tests
  • A psychological evaluation, including a discussion of your eating habits and attitude toward food

Your doctor may also request additional tests to help pinpoint a diagnosis, rule out medical causes for weight changes and check for any related complications.

Criteria for diagnosis

For a diagnosis of bulimia, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists these points:

  • You recurrently have episodes of eating an abnormally large amount of food ― more than most people would eat in a similar amount of time and under similar circumstances, for example, in a two-hour time period
  • You feel a lack of control during bingeing, such as how much you're eating and whether you can stop eating
  • You get rid of the extra calories from bingeing to avoid weight gain by vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, or misuse of laxatives, diuretics or other medications
  • You binge and purge at least once a week for at least three months
  • Your body shape and weight influence your feelings of self-worth too much
  • You don't have anorexia, an eating disorder with extremely restrictive eating behaviors

The severity of bulimia is determined by the number of times a week that you purge.

Even if you don't meet all of these criteria, you could still have an eating disorder. Don't try to diagnose yourself — get professional help if you have any eating disorder symptoms.

April 29, 2015