Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia Nervosa, more commonly referred to as bulimia, is a very serious eating disorder that causes psychological, emotional and physical problems. Most commonly, people who suffer from bulimia are women and usually develop body image problems, suffer from depression and are influenced by the media’s projection of the “perfect” female body. By binging and purging, bulimic women have an unhealthy relationship with their body and food. Many physical complications ensue, and can lead to death.

Typical Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Binge eating of usually high-carbohydrate or junk food (this is usually done in private or is kept hidden)
  • Making up for the binging by exercising for excessive amounts of time, or
  • Using laxatives and other such medicines, or
  • Purging (forced vomiting) of food
  • Making trips to the bathroom during meal times
  • Constipation, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain
  • Gastric reflux
  • Dehydration
  • Damaged tooth enamel
  • Damaged esophagus, throat and mouth tissue
  • Bad breath
  • Irregular menstruation, missed periods, possible infertility
  • Depression, guilt and shame

Causes of Bulimia

Bulimia has very serious and considerable physical effects, only some of which are mentioned above, but the causes of these problems are psychological in nature. While there is no clear cause, people with bulimia generally suffer from low self-esteem and depression. Poor body image is often the result of living in a highly critical world, controlled by a media that tells us what “perfect” is. Sometimes people with bulimia have suffered abuse, self-mutilation and other forms of physical and emotional harm. Other people who are involved in appearance-oriented jobs or activities (like models, actors, dancers and athletes) tend to have Bulimia to “control” weight. In serious cases, Bulimia can lead to death.

Treatment for Bulimia

Some people have let bulimia control their lives for several years, without showing very many signs. This is because bulimia is a highly private disorder. But if you are bulimic or you suspect somebody you care about is bulimic, it is vital to seek help as soon as possible. Bulimia is very treatable, but it will take some patience and effort to learn to have control again. The best treatment is usually through a therapist. A therapist can really help you get to the root of your problem, whether it is poor body image, abuse in your past, excessive stress and pressure or anything else. With help from a therapist and perhaps a nutritionist, you can learn to break the binging and purging cycle and gain healthy habits. A therapist will also help you change your way of thinking about food, your body, weight and appearance. They will also be able to solve your emotional problems, leading to a new and healthy way of living. There are also accompaniments to this therapy that includes herbal treatment, and acupuncture.

What Should You Do?

If you are afraid someone you love or care about is bulimic, it is important to talk to her/him about it, even though they may become defensive. If you are suffering from bulimia, it can be frightening to get help. But don’t worry; because nobody is going to judge you, people will only try to help. First, try confiding in somebody you trust. Then, you can seek help from a school counselor, a local therapist, or you can contact your health care provider for more information. If you feel scared and unsure, you can always call The National Eating Disorders Association’s hotline at 1-800-931-2237. Remember, it’s never too soon to seek help for bulimia or any other eating disorder.

Links and Resources for Further Reading

  • The University of Maryland’s Medical Center has great information about bulimia, including different therapy such as psychotherapy, medication and alternative therapy like acupuncture and the use of herbs.
  • Helpguide.org can help you find the answers you need about bulimia.
  • Womenshealth.gov also has links and resources, and FAQ about bulimia.

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