Understanding how bulimia nervosa is diagnosed

Health A-Z

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves binge eating and losing control over food intake and then compensating for those extra calories through self-induced vomiting, excessive use of enemas, laxatives, or diuretics. Some people with this condition also go through excessive exercising or fasting so as not to gain excessive weight after binge eating. Different studies on bulimia nervosa have shown that women are more prone to suffering from this condition than men in the country. Bulimia nervosa not only affects teenagers but also affects older adults.

To get proper and the most suitable treatment, people with this eating disorder need to get a proper diagnosis at the earliest. Here is a list of the things a professional health care specialists look for when diagnosing bulimia nervosa.

Diagnosis of bulimia
According to the report published by the American Psychiatric Association, people who suffer from this disorder binge eat and then compensate for this in unhealthy ways at least once a week by purging, starving, or exercising excessively, and this can continue for up to three months which can result in adverse effects on their health. Other common physical symptoms and signs experienced by a person with bulimia nervosa are as follows:

  • Constant fluctuations in body weight
  • Chronic dehydration
  • Enlarged glands under the jawline and in the neck
  • Electrolyte imbalances that can cause cardiac arrest, arrhythmia, or in the worst case, death
  • Esophagus inflammation
  • Oral trauma
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes
  • Peptic ulcers or chronic gastric reflux after eating
  • Infertility

The symptoms and signs of binge eating and purging include the following:

  • Losing control while eating
  • Secretly having large amounts of food within a short time period
  • After meals, very frequently using the bathroom
  • Exuding a smell of vomit often
  • Switching between excessive food consumption and fasting

The exact way to prevent this disorder is still not known. However, a proper diagnosis can help the affected person to get back to a normal lifestyle.

Treatment of bulimia

  • Nutrition Education
    The first step to treat bulimia is to disrupt the unhealthy cycle of binge-purge. Until this harmful cycle is not broken and the normal eating habit is back, nothing will improve the condition. The guidance of an expert dietician is much needed.
  • Psychotherapy
    Having poor self-esteem and a negative body image can often trigger bulimia; therefore, helping the diagnosed person get rid of their negative thoughts can speed up the treatment process. With proper motivation and counseling, all the irrational thoughts and beliefs about body shape, dieting, weight can be eradicated. Multiple factors like psychological, socio-cultural, environmental etc. can contribute to this harmful disorder. Hence, overcoming all those emotional issues that might be causing this eating disorder is crucial. Dialectic behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and so on are a major part of the treatment. In addition, interpersonal psychotherapy and help from the patient’s family can boost the treatment procedure.
  • Proper Medication
    As stressful transitions of life can also trigger bulimia, antidepressants used along with psychotherapy might be helpful.

People with this condition can be successfully treated and recover fully; however, it is important to note that there are chances of a relapse as well. So, an early diagnosis is a must.