Bulimia

What Is It?

The main symptom of the eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, is repetitive binge eating. During a binge, a person eats large quantities of food in a relatively short time, regardless of hunger. Binge eating is defined only in part by food quantity. A more important feature is the person's state of mind: During a binge, the person with bulimia feels out of control of the eating and cannot stop it.

By definition, bulimia is divided into a "purging" and "nonpurging" type, depending on what strategies the individual may use to try to control weight. Purging is vomiting self-induced immediately after a binge. In the nonpurging type of bulimia, a person may abuse laxatives, suppositories, enemas or diuretics, may go on an extended fast or start a period of strenuous exercise.

There is significant overlap between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, since those with bulimia may restrict food intake (a characteristic of anorexia) and people with anorexia may binge and purge. In both disorders, a person may be preoccupied with weight and be very self-conscious about body size and shape.

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