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Bulimia nervosa in adults: Clinical features, course of illness, assessment, and diagnosis

Scott Engel, PhD
Kristine Steffen, PharmD, PhD
James E Mitchell, MD
Section Editor
Joel Yager, MD
Deputy Editor
David Solomon, MD


Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors, as well as frequent comorbid psychopathology [1]. Pooled results from surveys in 14 countries estimate that the lifetime prevalence of bulimia nervosa is 1.0 percent, and the 12 month prevalence is 0.4 percent [2]. In the United States, it is estimated that the lifetime prevalence of bulimia nervosa in women is 1.5 percent, and in men is 0.5 percent [3]. The illness was first distinguished from anorexia nervosa in 1979 [4].

The clinical features, comorbid psychopathology, assessment, diagnosis, and differential diagnosis of bulimia nervosa are reviewed here. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, medical complications and their management, treatment, and outcome of bulimia nervosa are discussed separately.

(See "Eating disorders: Overview of epidemiology, clinical features, and diagnosis".)

(See "Bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder in adults: Medical complications and their management".)

(See "Eating disorders: Overview of prevention and treatment".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 06, 2017.
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