Another eating disorder emerged, however, towards the end of the 1970s, when there were reports of an increasing number of adolescents who indulged in overeating, followed immediately by induced vomiting. This disorder was first named ‘bulimarexia’ (Ibid), as it shared some similar features with those suffering from anorexia nervosa. It was in 1979 when the term ‘bulimia nervosa’ was introduced by a London psychiatrist, Professor Gerald Russell in a seminal paper which he published in the psychiatric journal Psychological Medicine (Abraham, 2008).
Bulimia means ‘to eat like an ox” (Abraham, 2008). Professor Russell described 40% of his patients suffering from a clinical condition as that of ‘an ominous variant of anorexia nervosa”, a disorder he termed ‘bulimia nervosa’. He explained that these groups of people periodically went on eating binges, while at the same time adopted extreme measures like induced vomiting to prevent themselves from becoming fat (Abraham, 2008; Cooper, 2009). In his paper, he proposed three definitions for bulimia nervosa: 1) powerful and intractable urges to overeat; 2) attempts to avoid the ‘fattening’
effects of food by inducing vomiting, abusing purgatives, or both; and 3) a morbid fear of fatness (Cooper, 2009). His definitions set a trend over the next few years, as clinicians and researchers used them as guidelines in identifying people with bulimia nervosa. The criteria for recognizing the onset of the disorder, however, became the subject of much debate as to how widespread bulimia nervosa was.
In 1994, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, provided some guidelines which has since then been widely accepted by mental health professionals (Schulherr, 2008). Some of these included episodes of binge-eating and purging, characterized by the person’s