Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by preoccupation with food and weight and recurrent episodes of binge eating during which large amounts of food are eaten in short periods of time (typically in two hours or less). These episodes are followed by purging behaviors which might include vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics or enemas, excessive exercise or fasting… all done in an attempt to prevent weight gain.
People with bulimia report feeling “out of control”. They fear they will get fat. Still they can’t seem to stop bingeing. Usually after a binge they feel guilty and emotionally upset and that motivates them to purge. Many people report feeling some relief after the purge, making these behaviors self-reinforcing and the cycle very difficult to break. Binge eating and purging are usually done in secret.
Excessive Thinking About Body Shape and Weight
How a person feels about him or herself at any given point in the day is excessively influenced by their body shape and weight. According to statistics (ANAD), most people with bulimia fall within a somewhat normal weight range. Weight may fluctuate more than 10 pounds as the result of alternate bingeing and fasting. (At the Acoria Center we have seen many bulimics who have had a long history of very wide weight swings. At the time they begin treatment, some are under a healthy weight, some are at a healthy weight and still others are significantly above a health weight range.)
Medical and Psychological Consequences
Serious medical problems can include damage to the heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, thyroid, colon, esophagus, ruptured stomach, excessive bleeding and/or neurological abnormalities. Those who purge through vomiting often experience erosion of tooth enamel and gums, swollen salivary glands and broken blood vessels in the eyes.
Living with this secret and with the actual consequences of the bingeing and purging behaviors has great impact on all aspects of a person’s life: their physical and emotional health, self-esteem, their moods and their social relationships.
Treatment with a qualified Eating Disorders Specialist is crucial to a person’s recovery.