Posted: March 24th, 2023

What is Bulimia Nervosa?


Bulimia nervosa is a serious condition and life-threatening eating disorder. Individuals suffering from this illness tend to keep it a secret because of the stigma attached to it. Bulimia patients do not have control of their eating behavior and may consume significant amounts of food. As a result, they may use unorthodox approaches to losing weight, including induced vomiting and weight-loss supplements. Therefore, to investigate the impact of this condition, two cohorts suffering from eating disorders were studied for 5 years. According to Fairburn, Cooper, Doll, Norman, and O’Connor (2000), individuals suffering from binge eating conditions recovered faster than those who exhibited bulimia disorder. Although bulimia nervosa disorder is treatable, most people are not ready to seek medical assistance due to the stigma associated with the condition; however, professional intervention may reduce the adverse effects of this condition.

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Individuals with the condition have little control over the amount of food they consume. For instance, it is possible for a bulimia patient to eat a whole cake and a full gallon of ice all at once, whereas a normal person would only eat one or two cake slices and a bowl of ice cream (Fairburn et al., 2000). Therefore, it is palpable that the effects of bulimia are more intense compared to binge eating disorder. Hence, it is evident that a bulimia patient may overeat compared to a normal person.


To diagnose bulimia nervosa, a physician will initiate some medical examination, including urine and blood tests, physical examination, and more importantly psychological evaluation, which will establish the patient’s body image in relation to food. The physician can also apply the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5) (Harvard Medical School, 2009). Therefore, a medical examination is effective in initial diagnosis, while the DSM-5 tool employs standard criteria to analyze mental disorders.

The bulimia diagnosis involves several criteria. Firstly, the recurrent occurrence of eating excessively compared to other people is a critical indicator. Secondly, bulimia nervosa patients use inappropriate compensatory methods to overcome the effects of overeating. Thirdly, recurrent compensatory behaviors, such as induced vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting, and the use of laxatives to avoid weight gain may be exhibited by a patient. Lastly, self-definition is mostly influenced by an individual’s body weight and shape (Harvard Medical School, 2009). Thus, if patients exhibit most of such symptoms, they may be suffering from bulimia nervosa disorder.


Treatment for bulimia condition usually comprises several approaches, which involve different clinicians. The intervention is not only to reinstate usual eating habits but also to solve both medical and psychological issues related to this condition. Though treatment is based on the needs of a patient, several treatment guidelines are recommended. The medical interventions may involve psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and nutritional counseling.

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  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The method has been regarded as one of the most effective ways to treat bulimia, especially among adults. The treatment assists the patients in identifying and overcoming indistinct thoughts, involving food. CBT helps in seeking better ways of dealing with stress in life. However, this treatment cannot work in isolation and should be supported by medication to yield results (Harvard Medical School, 2009). Although the CBT approach is effective, it should be combined with appropriate medicines to avoid relapse.
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy. The approach helps the patient by addressing difficulties by engaging with close friends and family members to improve problem-solving approaches and communication skills.
  • Nutrition Counseling. Experts in this field can guide patients on how to break the bingeing cycle through nutritional interventions. A nutritionist can assist a patient in planning mealtime and adjusting the regular calorie consumption required to maintain an optimum weight.
  • With the assistance of a physician, a patient may be advised to use antidepressants, which can reduce symptoms of bulimia. The intervention is effective, especially when combined with psychotherapy. In addition, fluoxetine, a selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is an effective antidepressant approved for bulimia treatment (Harvard Medical School, 2009). Hence, to reduce the chances of a relapse, doctors may recommend continued use of antidepressants for more than a year (Harvard Medical School, 2009). Therefore, the use of the SSRI treatment approach lowers the frequency of binge eating and purging.
  • Other Medications. Although medics have tried to use various drugs to treat bulimia, many medications have not been effective. For instance, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have been used as an intervention drug. However, FDA has warned against its use since it causes seizures among patients.


Bulimia nervosa disorder is a condition that affects many individuals. The patients tend to overeat compared to what a normal person would consume. The eating disorder may lead to increased body weight among the affected individual. As a result, a person may use unorthodox ways to avoid gaining more weight. Most people who have been diagnosed with bulimia induce vomiting, use supplements, involve in vigorous exercise to reduce weight. However, the condition is treatable through therapy by regulating food intake, nutrition advice on when to take meals, and the use of relevant medication, which is complemented by psychotherapy.



Fairburn, C. G., Cooper, Z., Doll, H. A., Norman, P., & O’Connor, M. (2000). The natural course of bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder in young women. Archives of General Psychiatry, 57(7), 659-665.

Harvard Medical School. (2009). Treating bulimia nervosa. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from



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