Diagnosis And Treatment Of Bulimia Nervosa

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Bulimia Nervosa

Proper diagnosis of bulimia is a critical component to ensuring that a patient is properly treated. Without proper diagnosis treatment will likely be ineffective.

It can sometimes be a challenge to accurately identify a case of bulimia because symptoms can appear to be similar to binge eating disorder or anorexia nervosa. This is why there is a strict set of criteria used for diagnosis.

How Is A Patient Diagnosed With Bulimia Nervosa?

There are strict criteria to identify symptoms of bulimia. Since bulimia is similar to anorexia, there are key qualifiers that differentiate the two diagnoses.

A person with bulimia will engage in binge eating behaviors. He or she will eat a large quantity amount of food within a ~2-hour period. During a binging episode the patient will not be able to control his or her eating. Following the binge, the patient will engage in compensatory behavior in effort to prevent weight gain. This cycle of impulsive and indulgent behavior will happen at least 1-2 times per week for at least three consecutive months.

A person with bulimia will have low self-esteem. His or her self-image will weigh heavily on body weight. The patient will see himself or herself as unattractive, which causes a negative self-image.

What Is The Difference Between Anorexia Nervosa And Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa has similar behavioral patterns with anorexia nervosa, but they are not the same disorder. With anorexia nervosa, a patient will have restrictive behavior. He or she will restrict food intake to the point of starvation. He or she may also engage in purging behaviors. This is in effort to avoid weight gain. A person with anorexia will either be underweight or on the verge of becoming underweight. A person with bulimia nervosa will not see major fluctuations in bodyweight. He or she will instead maintain an average weight or be overweight.

The behavior of a person with bulimia nervosa is indulgent and impulsive. People who suffer from bulimia nervosa make impulsive and self-destructive decisions. They will also have difficulty resisting indulgent behavior. Such indulgent behavior includes binging, sex, and substance abuse. A person with anorexia nervosa will not engage in indulgent behavior, he or she will restrict to the point of deprivation of vital needs. This is the opposite of bulimia nervosa.

Treatment For Bulimia Nervosa

Even though it is not easy to get treatment and therapy for bulimia, proper medical and psychiatric intervention is often necessary to prevent the condition from becoming severe.

It can be hard to get treated for bulimia, especially in the initial months. Medical and mental health professionals use a combination of different forms of treatment to address medical, mental and emotional issues that contribute to symptoms.

Such emotional issues that may contribute to the condition of bulimia include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low self-worth
  • Body dsymorphia (Seeing body as flawed or malformed)
  • Poor stress management skills

For more severe cases, a patient may need to reside in an inpatient or rehabilitation center as he or she stabilizes his or her physical and mental health. In the inpatient and rehabilitation centers, a patient will be closely monitored and undergo intensive mental health treatment.


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