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Bulimia Nervosa

(Bulimia)

Definition

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder. People who have bulimia are overly concerned with weight and body image. They eat very large amounts of food (called binge eating) and use inappropriate means to rid their bodies of the food (called purging). Purging may be done through vomiting, laxatives, or water pills. Excessive exercise or fasting may replace or be used along with purging. This cycle of binge eating and purging is used to prevent weight gain.

Causes

The exact cause of bulimia is unknown. Factors that may contribute to this condition include:

Risk Factors

Bulimia is more young women, especially between 11-20 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of bulimia include:

Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms include:
Physical symptoms include:
Bulimia may lead to other problems, including:
Symptoms of these complications include:
People with bulimia have a high incidence of psychiatric conditions, including:

Diagnosis

The doctor may suspect bulimia after a physical exam and medical history. The doctor may ask about your dietary and exercise habits..
Once bulimia is suspected other tests may be done to determine if the bulimia has caused an imbalance in the blood or heart. Tests may include:
EKG
Heart EKG
Bulimia can lead to severe heart problems.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
A mental health professional may also perform a psychiatric exam and/or psychological tests. Drug screening may also be done.

Treatment

Immediate care may be needed to stabilize chemical imbalances in the body and manage changes to the heart.
Overall goals of treatment are to stop harmful behaviors and thought patterns.
Treatments may include:

Nutritional Support

A registered dietitian can create a healthy nutrition plan and create reasonable weight and calorie goals. The plan may also help avoid electrolyte imbalances.

Therapy

Therapy can help reshape behaviors by helping to:
  • Gain insight into the problem
  • Recognize what triggers binging and purging
  • Develop new coping skills
  • Learn and practice stress-management techniques
  • Talk about feelings
  • Develop a more appropriate idea of thinness
  • Develop healthier attitudes about eating
  • Learn to eat regularly to reduce the urge to binge
One type of behavior called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very effective, especially when combined with medication. Therapy may be one on one, group, family, or a combination of therapies.
For children, the school system should also be included. The school can provide special accomodations like snack breaks in class.

Medications

Antidepressants medication may help reduce the urge to binge and purge. Medication is most effective when combined with therapy.

Prevention

Healthy attitudes about food and your body help prevent bulimia nervosa. Suggestions include:

RESOURCES

Bulimia Nervosa Resource Guide for Family and Friends http://www.bulimiaguide.org

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders http://www.anad.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association http://www.bana.ca

Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.ontario.cmha.ca

References

Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 17, 2012. Accessed August 28, 2012.

Bulimia nervosa fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bulimia-nervosa.html. Updated June 15, 2009. Accessed August 28, 2012.

What are eating disorders? National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed August 28, 2012.

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