Bulimia, or the more scientific term Bulimia nervosa, is a type of eating disorder that involves binge eating. This eating disorder can be fatal and is extremely threatening to the physical and mental health of the individual suffering from it.
After the individual eats copious amounts of food, they overcompensate for the extra food by making themselves throw up or exercising more than they should. The individual induces vomiting either by forcing objects down their throat or by using laxatives.
Students with a BMI in the “overweight” or “obese” range were at the highest risk and students with a BMI in the “underweight” range were surprisingly at the lowest risk. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.
Bulimia is a serious disorder and if you feel that you or someone you know is suffering or potentially suffering from it, it is important to seek treatment immediately. Eating disorders can be life-threatening and are very addictive and hard to control.
Statistic show that around 1% of young women, as well as .01% of young men, have faced bulimia at one point or another during their lives. Unfortunately, statistics revolving around eating disorders can never be 100% accurate due to the fact that eating disorders are often kept secret from friends and family. More often than not, the individual with the eating disorder puts just as much effort into keeping the disorder secret as they do continuing with the bulimia.
Researchers have theorized that anywhere from 1.1% to 4.6% of women will be affected by bulimia during their lifetimes. In regards to men, 0.1% to 0.5% could suffer from the eating disorder.
In the United States, bulimia nervosa is the most common form of eating disorder.
Bulimia nervosa is the repetition of two actions. First, eating large amounts of food. Second, either forced vomiting or over exercising.
Usually, the individual eats high-calorie foods that can add up to over 3,000 calories in total. This is done over a period of around two hours.
The diet culture reaches our children at younger and younger ages; almost one third of girls with weights in completely healthy ranges have nevertheless dieted. — Dana Harron Psy.D.
Bulimia involves binge-eating, which leads to a loss of control for the individual. Essentially, once they start, it is hard to stop.
Other symptoms include secrecy about eating patterns and other risky behaviors, like self-harm of substance abuse.
Medical News Today lists some additional symptoms to look out for, some of which are behavioral while others are physical and emotional responses and signs.
First of all, an obsession with food and eating practices. This can also include eating in isolation and large amounts of food wrappers showing up in the trash. Excess money spent on food can be a sign, along with immediately visiting the bathroom or bedroom after eating, most likely in order to purge. Individuals may also hide food or hoard it in large quantities in order to facilitate binge-eating episodes.
Other symptoms include over-exercising, complaining about weight and body image, dieting and fasting phases, and breaking fasts to eat large amounts of food.
Physical symptoms include dehydration of a severe nature, nutritional deficiencies which can have a negative effect on general health, a constantly changing body weight, and “Russell’s Sign” or scars located on the individual’s knuckles that occur when the individual forces vomiting by putting their fingers down their throat.
While it is important to note the behavioral changes, it is also important to recognize physical symptoms. As mentioned earlier, bulimia can be life-threatening. Treatment can save lives if it is offered at the right time.
We know these behaviors are debilitating for those who engage in them. But it’s important to acknowledge loved ones who also struggle. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA
What To Do
When someone you know is showing symptoms of bulimia nervosa, the most important thing is to act as a support system. Help them recognize how dangerous their behavior is and encourage them to seek professional help. A crucial aspect of this, however, is making sure not to make them feel guilty or ashamed of their disorder.
Make sure the individual knows that you love and care for them. If they feel safe instead of judged, they are much more likely to take your advice and seek treatment.
Bulimia usually starts as a way to cope with stress from emotional situations, as well as stemming from insecurities about body weight and shape. Eating disorders can be fatal and it is important to recognize the source when trying to get treatment.