A Z Psychiatry 


Ray's Web Encyclopedia of Mental Health



The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders
World Health Organization, Geneva, 1992

F50.2 Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a syndrome characterized by repeated bouts of overeating and an excessive preoccupation with the control of body weight, leading the patient to adopt extreme measures so as to mitigate the 'fattening" effects of ingested food. The term should be restricted to the form of the disorder that is related to anorexia nervosa by virtue of sharing the same psychopathology. The age and sex distribution is similar to that of anorexia nervosa, but the age of presentation tends to be slightly later. The disorder may be viewed as a sequel to persistent anorexia nervosa (although the reverse sequence may also occur). A previously anorexic patient may first appear to improve as a result of weight gain and possibly a return of menstruation, but a pernicious pattern of overeating and vomiting then becomes established. Repeated vomiting is likely to give rise to disturbances of body electrolytes, physical complications (tetany, epileptic seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, muscular weakness), and further severe loss of weight.


Diagnostic Guidelines

For a definite diagnosis, all the following are required:

(a) There is a persistent preoccupation with eating, and an irresistible craving for food; the patient succumbs to episodes of overeating in which large amounts of food are consumed in short periods of time.
(b) The patient attempts to counteract the "fattening" effects of food by one or more of the following: self-induced vomiting; purgative abuse, alternating periods of starvation; use of drugs such as appetite suppressants, thyroid preparations or diuretics. When bulimia occurs in diabetic patients they may choose to neglect their insulin treatment.
(c) The psychopathology consists of a morbid dread of fatness and the patient sets herself or himself a sharply defined weight threshold, well below the premorbid weight that constitutes the optimum or healthy weight in the opinion of the physician. There is often, but not always, a history of an earlier episode of anorexia nervosa, the interval between the two disorders ranging from a few months to several years. This earlier episode may have been fully expressed, or may have assumed a minor cryptic form with a moderate loss of weight and/or a transient phase of amenorrhoea.

* bulimia NOS
* hyperorexia nervosa

Differential diagnosis. Bulimia nervosa must be differentiated from:

(a) upper gastrointestinal disorders leading to repeated vomiting (the characteristic psychopathology is absent);
(b) a more general abnormality of personality (the eating disorder may coexist with alcohol dependence and petty offences such as shoplifting);
(c) depressive disorder (bulimic patients often experience depressive symptoms).

ICD-10 copyright 1992 by World Health Organization.
AZ Psychiatry copyright (www.azpsychiatry.info) by Dr. Manaan Kar Ray