Bulimia nervosa, which takes its name from the Greek “hunger of an ox,” is the second most common eating disorder, different from but related to anorexia nervosa. Bulimics eat an inordinate amount of food, sometimes followed by remorse. About nine out of ten bulimics engage in self-induced vomiting, after the bingeing.
There are two types of bulimia: the purging and the non-purging. In the second kind, instead of vomiting, the individual usually engages in one or more of the following after binges: fasting, excessive exercise, laxatives, diuretics, and enemas. Most bulimics are of normal weight (with 5% of them slightly overweight), while anorectics are thin, sometimes looking almost skeletal. Also unlike anorexia, death is rare for bulimia. When it does occur, it is usually from hypokalemia (low potassium). The most common medical complication is an electrolyte imbalance.
Recommended treatments are hospitalization (although rare), medication (usually antidepressants), and psychotherapy.