A person with bulimia often feels a loss of control over their eating as well as guilt over their behavior. They are usually aware that their behavior is abnormal. Bulimia is most common in adolescent and young adult women. People with bulimia are often of normal or near-normal weight, which makes them different from people with anorexia (another eating disorder in which the person does not eat).
It can be difficult to get a bulimia diagnosis as it rarely shows up in the doctor's office or in lab tests for blood and urine. A bulimia diagnosis is sometimes made by a dentist who has experience in working with patients with bulimia.
The strict medical definition used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) requires 2 binge eating episodes a week for at least 3 months to make the diagnosis, but it's likely that some people with symptoms of bulimia may not fit these exact criteria.
If someone suspects they might have bulimia or other eating disorder, this checklist may prove helpful. Answering yes to any of these questions may be an indication for a bulimia diagnosis.
- Are you obsessed with your body and your weight?
- Does food and dieting dominate your life?
- Are you afraid that when you start eating, you won’t be able to stop?
- Do you ever eat until you feel sick?
- Do you feel guilty, ashamed, or depressed after you eat?
- Do you vomit or take laxatives to control your weight.