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21 April 2009

How is bulimia diagnosed?

Binge eating, lack of control and inappropriate compensatory behaviour to prevent weight gain are some of the essential features of bulimia nervosa. How is a diagnosis made?

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In order to establish whether someone has bulimia nervosa, a mental health professional needs to investigate whether the following criteria are present:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterised by both of the following:
    • Eating, in a discrete period of time (for example, within any two-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
    • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (for instance, a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviour in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.
  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviours both occur, on average, at least twice a week for three months.
  • Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
  • The disturbance doesn't occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.

- Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

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