Section Author: Katharine L. Loeb, Ph.D. (Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine)
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, defined as the uncontrolled consumption of abnormally large amounts of food in a discrete period of time, as well as problematic attempts to counteract the effects of overeating. Most commonly, the compensatory mechanisms take the form of self-induced vomiting, although individuals with bulimia nervosa can also engage in other forms of purging (e.g., laxative or diuretic misuse) as well as fasting and excessive exercise. If someone with this problem exclusively fasts and/or exercises excessively following binge eating episodes without purging, they are considered to have a non-purging subtype of the disorder. The self-concept of individuals with bulimia nervosa is disproportionately influenced by their shape and weight. Individuals with bulimia nervosa are normal to overweight; if someone is underweight and binge eats and purges, s/he would likely be diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, binge/purge type.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (strong research support)
- Interpersonal Psychotherapy (strong research support)
- Family-Based Treatment (modest research support)
- Healthy-Weight Program (controversial research support)
Note: Other psychological treatments may also be effective in treating Bulimia, but they have not been evaluated with the same scientific rigor as the treatments above. Many medications may also be helpful for Bulimia, but we do not cover medications in this website. Of course, we recommend a consultation with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and discussion of various treatment options. When you meet with a professional, be sure to work together to establish clear treatment goals and to monitor progress toward those goals. Feel free to print this information and take it with you to discuss your treatment plan with your therapist.