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Bulimia Nervosa: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

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  • Synopsis: Last Updated: 2015-03-11 - Bulimia also known as bulimia nervosa a deadly eating disorder in which an individual believes they are fat or overweight

Definition: Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging, or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed (purging), typically by vomiting, taking a laxative, diuretic, or stimulant, and/or excessive exercise, because of an extensive concern for body weight. Many individuals with bulimia nervosa also have an additional psychiatric disorder. Common comorbidities are mood disorders, anxiety, impulse control, and substance-misuse disorders. Patients with bulimia nervosa often have impulsive behaviors involving overspending and sexual behaviors as well as having family histories of alcohol and substance abuse, mood and eating disorders.

Main Document

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent binge eating, followed by compensatory behaviors referred to as purging. The most common form, practiced more than 75% of people with bulimia nervosa, is self-induced vomiting; fasting, the use of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, and over exercising are also common.

Bulimia, also known as bulimia nervosa, a deadly and horrifying eating disorder in which an individual believes they are fat or overweight and lose weight through unhealthy and dangerous methods.

These methods include self induced vomiting, excessive exercise, abuse of diuretics and laxatives, and sessions of binging and purging (consuming massive amounts of food and then forcing themselves to throw it back it up). Bulimia is extremely dangerous and in many cases deadly.

There are two sub-types of Bulimia Nervosa: purging and non-purging.

  • Purging Type: the patient uses self-induced vomiting (which may include use of emetics such as syrup of ipecac) and other ways to rapidly remove food from the body before it can be digested, such as laxatives, diuretics, and enemas.
  • Non-purging Type: occurring in approximately 6%-8% of cases, in which the patient uses excessive exercise or fasting after a binge to offset the caloric intake after eating. Purging-type bulimics may also exercise or fast, but as a secondary form of weight control.

Bulimia is related to deep psychological issues and feelings of lack of control.

Sufferers often use the destructive eating pattern to feel in control over their lives. They may hide or hoard food and overeat when stressed or upset. They may feel a loss of control during a binge, and consume great quantities of food (sometimes over 20,000 calories). After a length of time, the sufferer of bulimia will find that they no longer have control over their binging and purging.

Most people with bulimia may seem perfectly normal and appear to be at a healthy weight. However, some people have such a low self-esteem and such a bad self-image that they turn to bulimia in an attempt to lose weight.

Many women with bulimia are actually high achievers in other areas such as school or work, and may be trying to cover up their bulimia by succeeding in other areas. Just remembering, anyone can have bulimia. If you do, don't be embarrassed. Treatment is available and help is out there.

Symptoms of Bulimia:

Someone with bulimia nervosa will suffer many side effects. Some of the short term effects that this eating disorder can cause include (but are not limited to):

  • Extreme weight loss over a short period of time
  • Malnutrition (due to extreme lack of food)
  • Depression and self-hatred
  • Headaches and bloodshot eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Obsession with body weight and appearance

If these aren't enough to scare anyone off from even attempting to lose weight through bulimia, lets look at some long term effects of this vicious eating disorder:

Tooth enamel breaks down due to constant contact with stomach acids when vomiting Stomach ulcers More prone to developing dental cavities Constant dehydration Irregular heartbeat which can lead to heart attacks Ruptures of stomach and esophagus Higher chance of suicidal behaviors and feelings

It can be difficult to really know if someone has bulimia.

However, if you are sure that someone you know and care about has bulimia, contact your doctor immediately. Confront the person about your feelings and try to help them. It's almost certain that they will be angry and embarrassed, as well as try to deny that they have bulimia. However, you need to be stern and insist they get help. You could be saving that persons life.

Bulimia Nervosa Awareness Information

Periwinkle color ribbonThe Periwinkle color ribbon signifies Eating Disorder awareness including Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia nervosa, and Binge eating disorder. In Canada Eating Disorders Awareness Week is the first week of February. In Australia Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week September 1 to 7th aims to raise awareness of eating disorders and poor body image in Australia.

Quick Facts: Bulimia Nervosa

In 1979, Gerald Russell first published a description of bulimia nervosa, in which he studied patients with a "morbid fear of becoming fat" who overate and purged afterwards. He specified treatment options and indicated the seriousness of the disease, which can be accompanied by depression and suicide. In 1980, bulimia nervosa first appeared in the DSM-III.

Statistics: Bulimia Nervosa

  • The majority, about 80 to almost 90 percent of individuals with bulimia are women.
  • Some individuals may tend to alternate between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.
  • Media portrayals of an ideal body shape are widely considered to be a contributing factor to bulimia.
  • There is a genetic component to bulimia. Twin studies estimate the heritability of syndromic bulimia to be 54 - 83%.
  • Bulimics are much more likely than non-bulimics to have an affective disorder, such as depression or general anxiety disorder.
  • A survey of 496 adolescent girls reported that more than 12 percent experienced some form of eating disorder by the time they were 20.


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