What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder categorized by food restriction, below average weight, and excessive worry around gaining weight. Bulimia-Nervosa (BN) is different from AN in that people with BN enter what are known as binging and purging cycles. People with BN binge (or eat large amounts of food without control) and then try to prevent weight gain through purging. People purge calories through unhealthy ways such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxative or diuretics, enemas, starvation or fasting, and excessive exercise.

How does Bulimia Nervosa affect people?

Bulimia Nervosa (BN) presents very similarly to Anorexia Nervosa (AN). People suffering from BN tend to experience cognitive distortions where they view their body as different or larger from reality.The person may also experience low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Further, the person may also experience sore throat, acid reflux, tooth decay, erosion of the esophagus, and dehydration due to the binging and purging cycles. Because someone can have an AN with a binge-eating/purging subtype, the main difference between the two diagnoses is weight. People with BN tend to have a normal weight, whereas people with AN have a below average weight. Because people with BN present with a normal weight, it may be difficult for people to identify them as having an eating disorder, and many times dentists and dental staff are the ones to identify people as having BN due the tooth and throat erosion that is caused by self-induced vomiting. Just like AN, BN also has severe health risks that include death due to dehydration or suicide.

How is Bulimia Nervosa treated?

Bulimia Nervosa (BN) is a very serious and fatal disorder that requires clinical intervention. Treatment for BN consists of a medical provider who works with the individual to treat the physical effects of BN, a nutritionist who helps the individual develop a healthy relationship with food, a psychiatrist who may prescribe antidepressants, and psychotherapist who may help the individual with their self-image and body esteem. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and psycho-education  is a good approach for challenging distorted views of the self, and oftentimes support groups work, too. In severe cases of BN, individuals may need a more intense intervention such as intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment. If you or someone you know is suffering from AN or another eating disorder contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for support. They can be reacted at (800) 931-2237 (call or text) or by chat at: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline.

This page is part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.


While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.



   
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