What is it?
Bulimia nervosa is primarily a mental health disorder which sees the patient binge eating and then trying to expell food from their body as quickly as possible, by vomiting, taking laxatives or using enemas for instance, in order to avoid weight gain. It is sometimes brought into association with the other common eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, whose sufferers also develop unhealthy eating habits in order to keep weight down.
How do you get it?
Like with anorexia, there is no singular factor that determines whether a person will become bulimic or not. However, studies have shown some common influences, such as:
- An obsessive attitude to body shape and size
- Low self-esteem
- A feeling of helplessness and need for control
- A high pressure environment, be it to look good or to perform in other ways
- Abuse during childhood or adolescence
It has also been suggested that altered brain chemistry may mean some women are chemically more predisposed to the condition. Try to remember however that there is no set answer for the cause of it and it various from person to person.
Who is at risk?
Research has indicated that bulimia is more prevalent in professions which idealize a slim physique such as drama, dance, modelling, cheerleading and athletics. The vast majority of sufferers are female, high achievers and the disease is more common among Caucasians than any other ethnicity
What is a binge?
Binge eating means consuming large volumes of food in a short space of time. Some bulimics ingest as much as 20,000 calories’ worth of ’comfort food’ in one go, according to Mama’s Health. These foods are often rich and high in calories. The binge is then followed by a feeling of calmness and eventually self-loathing, which forces the sufferer to try to rid their body as quickly as they can of what they have eaten.
What consequences can it have?
The severity of symptoms can vary, but have the potential to be very serious. ’Purging’ is often used to refer to compulsions such as vomiting, taking laxatives and sometimes exercising excessively. Some symptoms include:
- Stomach ulcers
- Swollen salivary glands
- Cavities and erosion of tooth enamel due to frequent contact with stomach acid
- Heart problems and cardiac arrest
- Abnormal bowel release
- Stomach ruptures
- Malnutrition and starvation
How is it treated?
Some bulimics are given anti-depressants to lift their mood and help them gain better perspective. Drugs designed to ease gambling and drug cravings are also used in some cases.
Phsychiatric treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can play a significant role in helping the sufferer defeat the condition.
Princess Diana reportedly admitted to having suffered with bulimia, as has singer Elton John. Other known celebrities with eating disorders include Jessica Alba, Mary-Kate Olsen and supermodel Kate Moss.
Image: Pink Sherbet PhotographyTags: anorexia bulimia eating disorders