What is Bulimia?
Bulimia Nervosa is a psychological and severe life-threatening eating disorder described by the ingestion of an abnormally large amount of food in short time period, followed by an attempt to avoid gaining weight by purging what was consumed.
Methods of purging include forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, and extreme or prolonged periods of exercising. Often, in these binge/purge episodes, a woman or man suffering from this disorder will experience a loss of control and engage in frantic efforts to undo these feelings.
Since he or she may have bingeing and purging episodes in secret, they are often able to conceal their disorder from others for extended periods of time. Those suffering from bulimia nervosa often utilize these behaviors in an attempt to prevent weight gain, to establish a sense of control, and/or as a means of coping with difficult circumstances or situations.
Causes of Bulimia
The exact cause of bulimia nervosa is currently unknown; though it is thought that multiple factors contribute to the development of this eating disorder, including genetic, environmental, psychological, and cultural influences. Some of the main causes for bulimia include:
- Stressful transitions or life changes
- History of abuse or trauma
- Negative body image
- Poor self-esteem
- Professions or activities that focus on appearance/performance
Bulimia Signs & Symptoms
An individual suffering from bulimia nervosa may reveal several signs and symptoms, many which are the direct result of self-induced vomiting or other forms of purging, especially if the binge/purge cycle is repeated several times a week and/or day.
Physical signs and symptoms of this eating disorder are:
- Constant weight fluctuations
- Electrolyte imbalances, which can result in cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, or ultimately death
- Broken blood vessels within the eyes
- Enlarged glands in the neck and under the jaw line
- Oral trauma, such as lacerations in the lining of the mouth or throat from repetitive vomiting
- Chronic dehydration
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Chronic gastric reflux after eating or peptic ulcers
Signs and symptoms of binge eating and purging are:
- Disappearance of large amounts of food
- Eating in secrecy
- Lack of control when eating
- Switching between periods of overeating and fasting
- Frequent use of the bathroom after meals
- Having the smell of vomit
Since negative body image and poor self-esteem are often the underlying factors at the root of bulimia, it is important that therapy is integrated into the recovery process. Treatment for bulimia nervosa usually includes:
Discontinuing the binge-purge cycle: The initial phase of treatment for bulimia nervosa involves breaking this harmful cycle and restoring normal eating behaviors.
Improving negative thoughts: The next phase of bulimia treatment concentrates on recognizing and changing irrational beliefs about weight, body shape, and dieting.
Resolving emotional issues: The final phase of bulimia treatment focuses on healing from emotional issues that may have caused the eating disorder. Treatment may address interpersonal relationships and can include cognitive behavior therapy, dialectic behavior therapy, and other related therapies.