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Last Updated on : 19th Apr, 2013

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Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Adolescents suffering from bulimia nervosa (BN) perform repeated episodes of "binging" (i.e., consuming unusually large amounts of food) at least twice a week for three months or longer. These binging behaviors are accompanied by a sense of the eating being out of control and are coupled with extreme compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative/diuretic abuse, fasting, or excessive exercise.

Common features of BN include secrecy about these behaviors due to marked feelings of shame and guilt. As a result, parents and peers are often unaware of the disordered eating and these individuals suffer from BN for an average of 6 years before receiving treatment. Unlike those suffering from anorexia nervosa, adolescents with BN are typically in the average weight range and do not appear to be at increased risk for mortality. However, many serious medical conditions can occur among individuals who are engaging in frequent binge eating and compensatory behaviors. For example, heart problems due to electrolyte abnormalities may develop as the result of frequent purging and laxative abuse can cause lasting colon damage.

As can be seen below, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy currently have the most research evidence for the treatment of adolescents with bulimia nervosa.

Adolescent Bulimia Nervosa (BN)

Works Well
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Might Work
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  • Nondirected Support - Individual Only

Source: Keel, P. K., & Haedt, A. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for eating problems and eating disorders. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 39-61.

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