Bulimia nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is a serious eating disorder that can be potentially life-threatening. Individuals suffering from bulimia try to control their weight by limiting food intake, and then proceed to overeating uncontrollably and finally, getting rid of the extra calories in their body in an unhealthy way through making themselves vomit or taking laxatives. Bulimia can be categorized in two ways:
- Purging bulimia: regular vomiting or misuse of laxatives to prevent weight gain.
- Nonpurging bulimia: fasting, strict dieting or extreme exercising to prevent weight gain.
Individuals who suffer from bulimia usually feel guilty and are ashamed when they eat because they fear this will cause them to gain weight. This is why the secretly purge themselves. Bulimia can be hard to overcome; however, with the proper treatment, adaption of a healthier eating pattern can be restored.
Possible signs and symptoms of bulimia may include:
- Fear of gaining weight
- Fear of inability to control eating behavior
- Being preoccupied with body weight and shape
- Forcing oneself to vomit or exercise excessively
- Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
- Limiting calories or avoiding certain foods
Most individuals with bulimia are normal weight or even slightly overweight which it why it may not be clear to others that something is wrong. Possible red flags may include:
- Worrying or complaining about being fat
- Having a negative attitude about body image
- Not wanting to go out in public
- Exercising excessively
- Having sores/scars on the knuckles or hands
- Going to the restroom right after or during meals
- Uncontrollable intake of foods
The exact cause of bulimia is unknown. Many factors play potential triggers in the development of eating disorders such as emotional health, peer pressure, possible genetic links, psychological issues and others.
Factors associated with an increased risk of bulimia include:
- Being female
- Age (late teens or early adulthood)
- Genetic links
- Being overweight as a child
- Psychological and emotional issues (poor body self-image, stress, boredom, others)
- Peer pressure
- Sports or work pressures
Complications of bulimia may include:
- Heart problems
- Damaged teeth and gums
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Misuse of drugs or alcohol abuse
- Anxiety and depression
- Swelling of the throat
The first step to beating bulimia is to recognize the problem. The most effective treatment for overcoming bulimia is combining psychotherapy with antidepressants.
- Psychotherapy: Talk therapy or psychological counseling. It usually involves discussing the related issues that lead to the disorder.
Three types of psychotherapy include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: to help you identify unhealthy, negative attitudes and replace them with healthy, positive ones
- Family-based therapy: to help the family control and deal with problems that bulimia can have on a teen’s development and on the family as a whole.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy: to help improve communication and problem solving skills within close relationships
Other forms of treatment may include:
- Eating plans to help regulate normal eating habits and good nutrition
- Managing stress
- Taking medications such as fluoxetine (Prozac) to help reduce symptoms of bulimia
- Hospitalization if necessary
A few recommendations for preventing bulimia may include:
- Reestablishing a healthy body image
- Talking to a pediatrician to identify early indicators of an eating disorder and prevent its development
- Supportive talking to a friend or loved on about related issues that can lead to an eating disorder