Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

When doctors suspect you have bulimia, they 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 an X-ray to check for broken bones, pneumonia or heart problems and an electrocardiogram (EKG) to look for heart irregularities.

These tests help doctors determine if you have bulimia or another eating disorder, such as anorexia or binge-eating disorder.

Diagnostic criteria for bulimia

To be diagnosed with bulimia, you must meet these criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association:

  • You repeatedly binge, eating an abnormally large amount of food, and feel that you can't control your eating.
  • You get rid of the extra calories from bingeing by vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications.
  • You binge and purge at least twice 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.

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.

Apr. 03, 2012

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.