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Abstract

The present paper reviews some of the historical references to the concept of bulimia found in the medical literature of the last 300 years. Bulimia is an eating disorder that is widely believed to be of very recent, historical origin. The current diagnostic category of bulimia may be denoted as “new”, largely because of increased prevalence, and changes that have occurred in symptoms seen as constituting the syndrome. However, available references show clearly that various conceptualizations of bulimia extend back several hundred years. Also, treatment approaches that are consistent with presumed etiology have been offered by several early writers. While bulimia has recently been viewed as an emergent variant of anorexia nervosa, historical evidence suggests that earlier conceptualizations of the term describe a symptom as well as a discrete syndrome. Despite the fact that the diagnosis and use of the concept of bulimia has been variable historically, its dramatic fundamental feature has remained consistent.