What is Bulimia Nervosa?
People with bulimia undergo periods of food restriction. They then over-eat with an uncontrollable urge, thus, setting-off a response to starvation.
It happens by bingeing on an abnormally large quantity of food in a short period, usually less than 2 hours.
It is followed by feelings of extreme guilt, disgust, or anger. As a result, they indulge in the compensatory ritual of purging, severe fasting, or rigorous exercising.
Purging involves self-induced vomiting or abusing laxatives. The characteristics of bulimia nervosa involve a binge-purge cycle that eventually becomes more compulsive.
Some studies have shown people with bulimia tend to binge on those types of food, which they usually avoid. However, it is not limited to particular food preferences.
The difference between anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is that people who have bulimia may not be thin or under-weight. Anorexics restrict food intake due to extreme dieting behavior. But, bulimics do not limit food intake; instead, they show a compensatory response for binge eating.
Most people with bulimia maintain an average weight. Because of this, it is often difficult to detect and diagnose bulimia.
What Causes Bulimia Nervosa?
Research suggests bulimia is most common in teenage and early adult women. Up to 3% of women and 0.5% of men in the US may have bulimia.
The precise cause of bulimia nervosa is still unknown. However, several factors, such as an excessive obsession with weight loss, perfectionism, trauma, or other stressful incidents, play a role in its development.
In some cases, bulimia might be genetic or caused by a lack of serotonin, a chemical in the brain.
Diagnosis of Bulimia Nervosa
The diagnostic criteria for bulimia are as follows:
- The binge-purge cycle must occur at least once a week for three months.
- A feeling that you are out of control, and are unable to stop overeating during the binge-eating episodes.
- Signs of low self-worth with regards to your body image, shape, and weight.
- Repeated urge to go to the bathroom immediately after or during a meal (for purging).
- You are engaging in repetitive compensatory behaviors to prevent weight gain.
- The bulimia behaviors (purging, excessive exercises, and extreme dieting) must not be a part of anorexic behaviors.
Bulimia Nervosa Complications
Some of the health consequences of bulimia include:
- Excessive vomiting leads to dehydration resulting in kidney failure.
- Acid reflux, heartburn, and ruptured esophagus (food pipe).
- Stomach ulcers, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Self-injury or suicidal thoughts.
- Hormonal changes, loss of libido, infertility, and irregular periods.
- Anxiety, depression, and personality disorders.
- Calluses on knuckles due to purging.
- Electrolyte imbalance and fatigue.
- Oral trauma such as damaged gums, swollen jaw, and salivary glands, and damage of teeth due to excessive purging.
Is There a Treatment for bulimia?
Bulimia Nervosa can be extremely dangerous if untreated. Despite posing a life long challenge, it is certainly treatable. Treatment often includes therapy, counseling, and food and nutritional education.
In some cases, doctors will prescribe antidepressants and medication for anxiety.
Psychologists often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or psychotherapy to treat people with bulimia.
The idea is to improve one’s self-worth and reduce any negative feelings. It is vital to be mindful of the illness and openly communicate feelings with loved ones. It will help build a positive state of mind.
Mental health awareness is essential. If you know someone who has bulimia, then you have to be compassionate, accepting, and show empathy since the individual may be reluctant to seek help.
Be ready to acknowledge and listen to their feelings. But, avoid commenting, advising, or judging them. Help them get treatment and ask them how you can help them get better.