Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review Extracts from “BestTreatments”

Bulimia nervosa

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 14 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:380
  1. Regina Z Lilly (, medical writer1
  1. 1 BMJ Unified, London WC1H 9JR


    Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that affects women 9-10 times more often than men. It has three key features:

    • Intense preoccupation with body weight and shape

    • Repetitive episodes of binge eating (uncontrollably eating a large quantity of food in a defined period—usually less than two hours)

    • Routinely taking extreme measures to prevent weight gain, including self induced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, and misuse of laxatives and diuretics.

    The condition is characterised by the patient's inability to control the urge to indulge in binge eating. Medical complications are caused by the weight reducing behaviours, particularly vomiting and laxative misuse. The frequency of these behaviours is, on average, at least twice a week for three months. Episodes may be spontaneous or …

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