Research Article

Self-induced vomiting and bulimia nervosa: an undetected problem.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982; 284 doi: (Published 17 April 1982) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1982;284:1153
  1. C G Fairburn,
  2. P J Cooper


    Six hundred and twenty women who were currently practising self-induced vomiting to control their weight were identified with the help of a women's magazine. Nineteen women (3.1%) fulfilled diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa. Of the remainder, 499 (83.0%) fulfilled diagnostic criteria for bulimia nervosa, a recently described eating disorder. Of these, 56.1% practised self-induced vomiting at least once daily; the mean duration of vomiting was 4.5 years. Most women were of normal body weight. On standardised measures, 68.1% of women showed pronounced psychiatric morbidity and 89% had profoundly disturbed attitudes to food and eating. 56.4% thought they definitely needed medical help, though only 30.1% had ever discussed any aspect of their eating difficulties with a doctor. This study highlights the secrecy that surrounds bulimia nervosa and suggests that it is an important undetected source of psychiatric morbidity.