The Dangers of Bingeing and PurgingMay 11, 2015 • Posted in:
Bulimia is defined as bingeing and purging. Bingeing means taking in large quantities of foods, often sweets, in an uncontrollable feeding frenzy over a specific period of time. The purging that follows is done in many ways: self-induced vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, obsessive exercising, or even bouts of starvation. At least 60 percent of anorexics are also bulimic, combing the behaviors into a condition that some call bulorexia. Unlike anorexics, bulimics are well aware of the abnormality of their eating behaviors. Anorexics resist the reality of their self-starvation, while bulimics acknowledge their dysfunction even as they are overcome by it.
If you are bulimic, you probably already know it. What you may not know is that your eating disorder is causing serious damage to your body and its systems. Bulimics on average tend to continue their behavior for about five to seven years before looking for help. Physical complications from the disorder usually send them into a panic, forcing them to finally seek help. One woman came to me after her esophagus ruptured, caused by induced vomiting following her frequent binges. Repetitive vomiting puts a great strain on the esophagus and larynx, or voice box, resulting in tearing and bleeding.
Another common complaint that causes bulimics to seek help is severe tooth decay. Stomach acids constantly regurgitated over the tooth enamel will eventually eat it away. I’ve worked with bulimics who have had their teeth capped two and three times.
I remember one delightful woman who was trying very hard to be committed to a group I was leading for people suffering from bulimia. She worked at a dentist’s office and had had her teeth capped several times. After bingeing and purging that day, she’d broken one of her caps. That event was her turning point. That evening she came to the group with the cap in her hand, ready to commit to becoming well.
Another woman in the group had been binge eating for twenty-three years. During all that time, her husband and family were totally ignorant of her problem. She used laxatives to purge after her daily binges. She would get up in the morning, bake and eat a huge pan of brownies or other sweets, then bake again for her family. During the day she would take laxatives to flush her body of what she’d eaten.
The problem with laxatives is that they don’t just flush out food. They also leech the body of essential nutrients, such as potassium, the fuel that regulates heartbeat. A bulimic who flushes out potassium or an anorexic who takes in no potassium will often complain of a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Eventually, this woman suffered a heart attack. This was when her family ﬁnally found out about her disorder. They were shocked, unable to believe what their loved one was doing to herself—or why.
How, you might be asking yourself, could they not have known? Because bulimics will go to great lengths to hide what they do. And when their behavior becomes too obvious, many bulimics will forego being around people rather than moderate or stop their behavior. As bulimics isolate themselves, food becomes the obvious substitute for social interaction. Food replaces other people as the source of comfort and companionship. Deception and avoidance replace openness and camaraderie.
If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from some form of bulimia, it is imperative to seek professional help. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled with dealing with all different types of eating disorders, and is committed to helping your recovery journey. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.
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