What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — eating large amounts of food with a loss of control over the eating — and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way.

To get rid of calories and prevent weight gain, people with bulimia may use different methods. For example, you may regularly self-induce vomiting or misuse laxatives, weight-loss supplements, diuretics or enemas after bingeing. Or you may use other ways to rid yourself of calories and prevent weight gain, such as fasting, strict dieting or excessive exercise.

What are the symptoms of bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia signs and symptoms may include:

  • Being preoccupied with your body shape and weight 
  • Living in fear of gaining weight
  • Repeated episodes of eating abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Feeling a loss of control during bingeing — like you can’t stop eating or can’t control what you eat
  • Forcing yourself to vomit or exercising too much to keep from gaining weight after bingeing
  • Using laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating when they’re not needed
  • Fasting, restricting calories or avoiding certain foods between binges
  • Using dietary supplements or herbal products excessively for weight loss

The severity of bulimia is determined by the number of times a week that you purge, usually at least once a week for at least three months.

How is bulimia nervosa treated?

Following a thorough psychiatric evaluation, a Remedy psychiatric provider will create an individualized treatment plan for each patient with bulimia nervosa as every patient has a unique experience and specific needs to be addressed. The prescribed treatment plan will depend on the patient, the severity of the disorder, and how he or she is currently responding to therapy or medication. Antidepressants may help reduce the symptoms of bulimia when used along with psychotherapy.