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Bulimia Nervosa

To make an appointment, browse our providers who treat eating disorders or call (212) 305-6001

Facts to Know:

  • Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder which involves binge eating and purging due to concerns about shape and weight,
  • Bulimia can result in psychological distress as well as serious medical consequences.
  • Bulimia can be treated effectively with therapy and/or medications.

What is bulimia nervosa?

The exact cause of bulimia nervosa is not known. We do know that bulimia nervosa typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and that it is much more common in women than in men. Bulimia nervosa affects approximately 1-1.5% of young women. Individuals who are concerned about their weight, idealize thinness, or feel depressed and anxious, are all at increased risk for developing bulimia nervosa.

Symptoms

The following symptoms are generally present for 3 months or longer:

  • Recurrent binge eating. Binge eating is:
    • Eating an unusually large amount of food and
    • Feeling a sense of loss of control while eating
  • Inappropriate compensatory behaviors to try to prevent weight gain, such as:
    • Self-induced vomiting
    • Misuse of laxatives
    • Misuse of diuretics
    • Fasting
    • Excessive exercise
  • Evaluating one’s self-worth based largely upon shape and weight
  • Note: if a person meets the criteria above but is underweight, please see description for anorexia nervosa.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis of bulimia is best made by a doctor or mental health professional such as a therapist. A thorough psychiatric interview is essential, and a physical examination, evaluation of vital signs and laboratory assessment may also be used to establish a diagnosis.

Treatment

At ColumbiaDoctors, we provide the full array of treatments for bulimia nervosa. Search our providers for a therapist or psychiatrist who might be a good fit. For patients who require treatment for bulimia and other co-occurring mental health challenges, the Columbia Day Program  provides a structured, intensive treatment approach including meal support groups at lunchtime, eating disorder-focused group therapy, and other services tailored to individual needs.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is an evidence-based treatment for bulimia nervosa. Our therapists and psychiatrists are trained in the latest therapy modalities and can help you determine if therapy is right for you. In many cases, bulimia nervosa can be successfully treated with psychotherapy alone.

Psychopharmacology (Medication Management)

In some cases of bulimia nervosa, medications may be an important component of treatment. Here at ColumbiaDoctors, our psychiatrists combine a thorough evaluation of each individual’s problems with the latest research to design a customized treatment plan. 

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