DefinitionBy Mayo Clinic staff
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 do 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, and 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 difficult to overcome. But effective treatment can help you feel better about yourself, adopt healthier eating patterns and reverse serious complications.
- Eating disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed Jan. 17, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4.. Accessed Jan. 17, 2012.
- Forman SF. Eating disorders: Epidemiology, pathogenesis and clinical features. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Jan 26, 2012.
- Ebert MH, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Psychiatry. 2nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=10. Accessed Jan. 17, 2012.
- Forman SF. Eating disorders: Treatment and outcome. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Jan. 26, 2012.
- Breuner CC. Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: Eating disorders. Pediatrics in Review. 2010;31:c75.
- Carei TR, et al. Randomized controlled clinical trial of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2010;46:346.
- Binge eating disorder. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/binge.htm. Accessed Jan. 31, 2012.
- LeGrange D, et al. Calculation of expected body weight in adolescents with eating disorders. Pediatrics. 2012;129:1.
- Sim LA, et al. Identification and treatment of eating disorders in the primary care setting. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:746.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy for depressed adolescents (IPT-A). National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHS). http://nrepp.samhsa.gov/ViewIntervention.aspx?id=198. Accessed Jan. 26, 2012.
- Loeb KL, et al. Transdiagnostic theory and application of family-based treatment for youth with eating disorders. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. 2012;1:17
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minn. Feb. 22, 2012.
- Sim LA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minn. Mar. 14, 2012.