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Bulimia - How do doctors diagnose bulimia?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

There is no simple test for bulimia. You and your doctor reach the diagnosis together after talking about your problems, your life, and your eating habits.

Your doctor might also ask you about your family and other important relationships.[21] For more on the kinds of questions to expect, see Questions your doctor might ask.

There are three key features to bulimia. Your doctor will look for these to help decide if you have the condition.

  • An obsession with your body weight and shape.

  • Regular episodes of binge eating, when you eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time. A binge usually lasts less than two hours. Doctors say you have bulimia if you've been bingeing and then purging an average of twice a week or more, for three months or more.[42][43]

  • Regularly doing things to avoid putting on weight. This might include vomiting, starving yourself, exercising obsessively, and taking laxatives or pills that make you urinate a lot (diuretics).

Vomiting and taking laxatives can upset the balance of chemicals in your body and cause kidney and heart problems. Your doctor might order some blood tests to check whether this has happened. He or she might also check your height and weight. If you are very thin, you could have anorexia, not bulimia. (To read about anorexia, see Other eating disorders.)

It might not be your doctor, but your dentist, who notices the problem. This is because if you make yourself sick a lot, the acid in your vomit can eventually strip the enamel from your teeth. If your dentist sees this kind of damage, he or she might ask you about your eating habits.

It can be hard to talk to a doctor about bulimia, even a doctor you know and trust. But it is very important that you get help as soon as you can.[44] It might be easier if you ask a friend to go with you to your doctor's appointment, for support.



Your kidneys are organs that filter your blood to make urine. You have two kidneys, on either side of your body. They are underneath your ribcage, near your back.


Laxatives are medicines that empty your bowels by making you go to the toilet more often than usual.

For more terms related to Bulimia


For references related to Bulimia click here.
Last Updated: September 18, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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