Bulimia

Bulimia is basically a psychological eating disorder also referred to as binge eating. It is a condition that goes beyond out of controlled dieting. The condition is characterized by a cycle of overeating and purging that is similar to any addiction of drugs or other substances.

You may restore to secretive overeating also called as bingeing followed by vomiting/purging (self induced), laxative abuse, or use of enemas in an attempt to keep your weight under control. You may also decide to fast for few days following the binge episode or restore to excessive exercise in order to get rid of the possible weight gained. Your episodes of binge eating may not be triggered by intense hunger.

You are more likely to be suffering from this condition if you are a girl in your teens, have other addictions, history of drug or alcohol abuse, compulsive or affective disorders, or have been unsuccessful with a variety of dieting methods.

Genetic predisposition is supposed to play a role in you developing the condition. Few other reasons why bulimia develops in you are attributed to chemical imbalances in the brain and abnormal levels of certain hormones.

Certain factors such as fear of gaining weight, desperately wanting to lose weight, and being unhappy with body shape and image are similar between anorexics and bulimics.

If you follow self starvation, restrict your diet intake, fear becoming fat, and exercise heavily then maybe you suffer from anorexia.

You may show traits of being a perfectionist with a sense of control in your life. If you are bulimic you would indulge in periods of binge eating followed by self induced vomiting to overcome the feelings of guilt and depression.

You may be overweight or fall within the normal range for your age and weight unlike someone who has anorexia. You have a good long term prognosis and higher chances of recovery.

Causes of bulimia are:

  • A poor body image,
  • low self esteem,
  • worthlessness,
  • history of sexual or substance abuse,
  • stressful periods in life,
  • being in appearance oriented professions/ activities are some of the major risk factors in development of bulimia.

While it may be difficult to single out any cause for bulimia, your perception of your body image and weight play important roles among other contributing factors.

You may also have trouble managing emotions in a healthy way. You may be one of those who binge and purge when feeling angry, depressed, stressed or anxious.

Few organic causes such as abnormalities in the levels of chemical messengers within the brain, decreased perceptions of satiety, and abnormal production of hormones are being investigated.

You are likely to be suffering from bulimia if you have the following symptoms:

  • Obsessed with your body and weight
  • Food and dieting dominate your life
  • No control over food
  • You eat until you feel sick
  • You feel guilty
  • Ashamed
  • Depressed after you eat
  • Vomiting
  • Use laxatives to control your weight

You may be suffering from bulimia if you satisfy the five basic criteria that include;

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
  • Sense of lack of control over the eating during the episode
  • Compensatory behavior (self induced vomiting, fasting, laxative use, excessive exercise) to prevent weight gain
  • Twice weekly episodes for minimum three months
  • Dissatisfaction with body shape or weight

When you live with bulimia you are not only putting your body, but also your life at risk. You are susceptible to a range of medical complications and adverse effects due to the condition.

You may develop dehydration that is one of the most dangerous side effects of purging. Bulimia nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder.

Electrolyte imbalances in your body due to use of laxatives and diuretics can cause lethargy, cloudy thinking, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure and death.

Weight gain, acid reflux or ulcers, abdominal pain, chronic sore throat, tooth decay, ruptured stomach or oesophagus, chronic constipation, and broken blood vessels in the eye are among the many possible complications.

If you are a woman you may experience irregular menstrual cycles or loss of menstrual periods.

  • The medical and psychological complications you may be present with need management with a multidisciplinary treatment approach.
  • If you have developed medical complications then they need to be attended to first by a medical specialist for either inpatient care (if symptoms are severe) or outpatient care.
  • Certain drugs such as antidepressants may be prescribed by your doctor to reduce bingeing and vomiting. You may also need vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • You may try alternative therapies such as herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture and massage but only in consultation with your physician.
  • Psychotherapy has an important role to play in your fight against bulimia. Your doctor will phase out your therapy plan by initially attempting to break the binge and purge cycle, change your unhealthy thoughts and ideas, and solve emotional issues.
  • During therapy you learn to monitor your eating habits, avoid situations that trigger binges, cope with stress in ways that don’t involve food, eat regularly to reduce food cravings, and fight the urge to purge.
  • You explore attitudes about eating, and rethink the idea that self-worth is based on weight.
  • The treatment would also target the emotional issues that caused the eating disorder in the first place.
  • Therapy may focus on relationship issues, underlying anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • You may expect better results from the treatment if you stop dieting.
  • Restricting calories and following strict dietary rules will help you to overcome cravings and thoughts of foods.
  • Maintaining a normal diet can help you break the binge-and-purge cycle and still reach a healthy, attractive weight.

You may want to hide your problem for fear of ridicule from family and friends. But remember early treatment for anorexia makes recovery easier and faster; so talk to your friend or family member if you are worried.

Also if you know someone who suffers from bulimia, don’t force that person to change their behavior or beliefs. While it may be undeniably difficult to bring up such a delicate subject don’t let this stop you from voicing your concerns.

Communicate your concerns in a loving and non-confrontational way.

Avoid critical and accusatory statements and instead focus on the specific behaviours that are of concern.

You can make a difference to the person’s life by showing that you care, offering support, and encouraging him/her to seek professional help.