Bulimia nervosa, also known as bulimia, is a very serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia usually binge in secret, often eating large amounts of food, and then purging by trying to get rid of the food in an unhealthy way.
To get rid of unwanted calories and prevent weight gain, people with bulimia may use methods such as vomiting, misuse of laxatives, weight-loss supplements, diuretics, or enemas after bingeing. They may use other methods such as fasting or excessive exercise after bingeing to get rid of the calories.
People with bulimia often are preoccupied with their body shape and weight. Bulimia can be hard to overcome as it’s more than just weight gain, it is linked to self-image and psychological thought processes.
Bulimia is more common in women than in men, and generally it starts in adolescence. About 3% of female adolescents have bulimia in America, with 107% having bulimia some time in their life. For males the numbers are lower at 0.1 -0.5%.
Symptoms of bulimia
Some of the physical signs and symptoms of bulimia are:
- Repeated episodes of bingeing and purging
- Living in fear of weight gain
- Feeling out of control during a binge and eating even when you are feeling full
- Fasting, or restricting calories between binges
- Going to the bathroom right after most meals
- Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating when they are not needed
- Purging the food that’s been eaten after a binge by vomiting, or using other methods
- Frequent dieting
Possible serious physical complications
Bulimia is very dangerous and can lead to serious medical complications if the condition is left untreated.
Possible complications are:
- Heart problems such as irregular heartbeat or heart failure
- Damage to the esophagus from repeated vomiting
- Swelling of the throat
- Dehydration, which can lead to kidney failure
- Severe tooth decay and gum disease
- Digestive problems
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Anxiety, depression or personality disorders
- Self-injury or suicidal thoughts
Bulimia with anorexia
Many people who suffer with bulimia, also suffer from anorexia.
Some of the symptoms of anorexia to take note of are:
- Severe loss of muscle mass
- Refusal to eat
- Being secretive about what food they are eating
- Exercising excessively
- Using laxatives
- Intense fear over weight gain
- Intense dissatisfaction with physical appearance, weight and body shape
- Personality changing from being outgoing to becoming more withdrawn
- Low body temperature, with cold hands and feet
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Loss of menstruation
- Brittle nails
It is important to note that someone can suffer from both, and so can have a combination of symptoms. This is very dangerous, as it will put extra strain on their health and may be harder to diagnose as their patterns of eating may shift. It is important that if you are worried about yourself or a loved one who you feel may be suffering with an eating disorder, to get help. At The Center • A Place of HOPE there are qualified and experienced health professionals who can help you.
Causes of Bulimia Nervosa
The exact cause of bulimia is unknown, and more research may need to be done. However, there are many factors that could play a role in developing of eating disorders including genetics, emotional health, societal expectations and other things such as social media.
There are risk factors that may increase your risk of bulimia. Some of these risk factors are:
- Girls and women are at a higher risk than men of having bulimia
- People with first degree relatives with an eating disorder are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder. This suggests a genetic link.
- Being overweight as a teen may also increase the risk
- Depression, anxiety disorders are closely linked to eating disorders
- Substance abuse disorders are also linked to eating disorders
- Dieting may put you at more risk of developing eating disorders
- Stress, and poor self-image may also be risk factors in developing an eating disorder
Although there is no real prevention of eating disorders, there are things you can do at home to create appositive environment for your children, especially as they become teenagers which can help to portray a positive body image. Things you can do are:
- Having family meals together to normalize eating healthily
- Encourage a healthy body image and what that looks like
- Encourage and build confidence in your children around other things other than their appearance
- Discuss healthy lifestyle as opposed to weight
- Encourage healthy exercise and movement
- Discourage dieting – rather talk about healthy habits such as exercise and healthy foods
At The Center • A Place of HOPE there are many treatment options available to you. It is important to get the right care from an experienced health professional.
Treatment may include psychotherapy, family counselling, medications and nutritional counselling. Treatment at The Center • A Place of HOPE is holistic and the treatment goals are aimed at addressing every area of your life to ensure your journey to wellness incorporates all areas of your life.
At The Center • A Place of HOPE there are caring and experienced health professionals to walk with you and your loved ones on your journey to wellness. It is so important to get the right care for you. Bulimia nervosa is a serious and possibly life-threatening disease if left untreated, so it is so important to get the care that you need.