Bulimia Nervosa

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is a severe eating disorder characterized by frequent binge eating followed by extreme efforts to avoid gaining weight, often by vomiting or extreme exercise. This repetitive binge-and-purge cycle can affect your digestive system and create chemical imbalances in the body that damage the functioning of major organs, including the heart. It can be fatal.

READ ALSO: Anorexia Nervosa: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Bulimia nervosa is most common among young women, though it can affect women and men of all ages. When you’re struggling with the eating disorder, life is a constant battle between the desire to lose weight and the irresistible pressure to binge eat. You don’t want to binge—you know you’ll feel guilty and ashamed later, but you always give in to the urge. After the binge ends, panic sets in and you turn to extreme measures to “undo” your overeating, such as taking laxatives, vomiting, or going for an intense run.

With the right treatment and support, you can break this vicious cycle, learn to manage unpleasant emotions in a healthier way, and regain your sense of control.

Not all bulimics purge

It’s important to note that bulimia doesn’t necessarily involve purging. Bulimia involves physically eliminating the food from your body by throwing up or using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. If you make up for your binges by fasting, exercising to excess, or going on crash diets, this also qualifies as bulimia.

Signs and symptoms of bulimia

Binge eating signs and symptoms

  • Lack of control over eating. Not able to stop eating until the point of discomfort and pain.
  • Secrecy surrounding eating. Going to the kitchen to eat after everyone else has gone to bed. Going out alone on unexpected food runs.
  • Eating remarkably large amounts of food with no obvious change in weight.
  • Disappearance of food, numerous empty wrappers or food containers in the garbage, or hidden stashes of junk food.
  • Alternating between overeating and fasting. Rarely eating normal meals, it’s all-or-nothing.
  • Purging signs and symptoms
  • Going to the bathroom after meals to throw up
  • Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating. Taking diet pills or using the sauna to “sweat out” water weight.
  • Smell of vomit. The bathroom or even the person may smell like vomit.
  • Exercising excessively after eating. Typical activities include high-intensity calorie burners such as running or aerobics.

Physical signs and symptoms

  • Calluses or scars on knuckles or hands from pushing fingers down their throat to induce vomiting.
  • Puffy cheeks caused by repeated episodes of vomiting.
  • Discolored teeth from exposure to stomach acid when vomiting. May look yellow, ragged, or clear.
  • Not underweight. Men and women with bulimia are usually normal weight or slightly overweight. Being underweight while purging might indicate a purging type of anorexia.
  • Frequent changes in weight

Bulimia causes and effects

There is no single cause of bulimia. Low self-esteem and concerns about weight and body image play major roles, there are many other contributing factors. You may have trouble dealing with your emotions in a healthy way and use eating as an emotional release, bingeing and purging when you feel angry, stressed, anxious, or depressed.

READ ALSO: What Is Misophonia?

Risk factors

  • Poor body image especially when combined with strict dieting.
  • Low self-esteem often from depression or a critical home environment.
  • Stressful life changes such as going away to college, relationship breakups, starting a new job, or going through puberty.
  • History of trauma or abuse such as childhood neglect or abuse, sexual assault, troubled family relationships, or the death of a loved one.

Effects of bulimia

When you are living with bulimia, you are putting your body—and even your life—at risk. The most dangerous side effect of bulimia is dehydration due to constant purging and vomiting. Vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, most commonly in the form of low potassium levels. Low levels of potassium cause a wide range of symptoms ranging from lethargy and cloudy thinking to uneven heartbeat and death. Low levels of potassium can also cause kidney failure. Using ipecac syrup is also very dangerous, and can cause sudden death.

Getting help for bulimia

Irrespective of how long you’ve struggled to overcome bulimia, you can learn to break the binge and purge cycle and develop a healthier attitude toward food and your body.

Steps to bulimia recovery

Admit you have a problem. You have to recognize that your relationship towards food is inaccurate and out of control. This is the first step in bulimia recovery.

Talk to someone. It can be hard to talk about what you’re going through, especially if you’ve kept your bulimia a secret for a long time. You may be ashamed, unsure, or scared of what others will think. However it’s vital to understand that you’re not alone. Find a good listener who will support you as you try to recover.

Stay away from people, places, and activities that trigger the temptation to binge or purge. Avoid weight loss web sites and “pro-mia” sites that promote bulimia. Be careful when it comes to meal planning and cooking magazines and shows.

Address any underlying mood disorder. It’s common for people with bulimia to also suffer from depression or anxiety. Getting help for co-existing conditions is vital to your bulimia recovery.

Seek professional help. The advice and support of trained eating disorder professionals can help you regain your health, learn to eat normally again, and develop healthier attitudes towards food and your body.


Disclaimer: The content provided on healthdiary365.com is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.

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