Bulimia is an eating disorder that has been highly stigmatized for being either just a phase or a narcissistic tendency. Bulimic patients can go from binge-eating large amounts of food and then throwing them up after feeling guilty about eating too much, so they induce vomiting. They would also resort to other methods of losing weight such as unreasonable fasting, enemas, use of laxatives and diuretics, and excessive exercise.
Concerning numbers, around 93% of patients diagnosed with bulimia are females. The disorder is said to likely develop in the later teenage years of a person until the early 20s. It is even more alarming that these numbers have been growing over the years and is hitting more and more young people over the past 50 years.
Bulimia nervosa afflicts approximately 4% of women and 0.5% of men in the US. Nearly 4% of those suffering from bulimia will die from the disease and nearly all struggling with the illness experience serious medical and/ or emotional effects. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.
Here are five reasons why bulimia is actually not as simple as you think:
- Bulimic patients are like any one of us, but we never know what they do when they are left alone.
This is one difference between bulimia versus anorexia. The weight of bulimics hover in the midst of the normal range, and that is why it becomes difficult to pinpoint at the onset that someone has bulimia. They don’t do peculiar activities – well, not in public. Bulimics thrive in secrecy. They shy away when they binge eat and become even more secretive when they obsess over losing weight.
- In reality, the brains of bulimic patients respond differently towards food, and they are not even aware of this.
According to a study, brains of bulimics show high activity in their left putamen, the portion of the brain associated with evaluating pleasant taste. It is why bulimics are still drawn to food even if they are full, thereby causing them to overeat.
Aside from this, women with bulimia experience reduced blood flow to their precuneus, the area of the brain associated with self-perception. Bulimics use food to get rid of anxious thoughts about themselves, especially in a stressful situation.
Sadly, there is a lot of guilt and shame attached to these behaviors so they tend to be done in private. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA
- Bulimic patients have developed the eating disorder from previous traumatic experiences.
This reason is the sadder truth about bulimia. Studies show that patients have, in one way or another, experienced abuse once in their lifetimes – particularly childhood sexual abuse. Bulimics have been reported to have low levels of self-esteem and confidence. They feel very insecure about themselves, particularly about how they look and weigh. In some cases, the low morale and unhappiness even end up in suicide.
- The mindset of self-punishment for bulimics can manifest in other physical forms like aggression or self-harm.
The obsession over weight loss that bulimics experience can go to a considerable extent as much as to hurt themselves when they fail. The guilt that they feel after overeating food causes them to inflict self-punishment on themselves. It somewhat gives them a sense that they can control themselves. Unfortunately, this cycle often goes way out of hand, and people barely know about it.
Denying the problem and thereby denying its effects are not uncommon. Patients sometimes lie also about the severity of their condition, further hampering the selection of appropriate treatment options. — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS
- Treating bulimia is not a one-time, big-time procedure which can completely remove the eating disorder.
Just like any other disorder involving the makeup of a person’s mind, bulimia is not easy to cure. It requires consideration not only of the physical but also the psychological needs of the patient. There could be all sorts of medication including antidepressants and psychotherapy, but it would take a long, continuous, and unwavering trail of support. While it is difficult, bulimia is something that we can overcome.
In a society that has portrayed a sexy body as the ideal body type, it gets challenging not to feel insecure about weight. Bulimia is real. It is not just a phase or a simple coping mechanism. It is a real disorder that has taken a toll on lots of people who have lost their sense of self-love.
So the next time you hear about bulimia, it pays to be sensitive about its real effects. Now is the right time to stop the hate and body shaming and start a culture that celebrates our diversity regardless of our shapes and sizes.