People suffering from bulimia nervosa will try to rid their bodies of calories by forcing themselves to vomit or engaging in other unhealthy behavior.
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
The disorder can generally be categorized as either purging bulimia nervosa or non-purging bulimia nervosa. While the former is an eating disorder, the latter category may involve behavior indirectly related to food, for example, over-exercising.
With bulimia nervosa, the underlying preoccupation is on one’s physical appearance, and an affected person will tend to obsess over his or her weight, body shape, diet, and other related things.
Usually this preoccupation takes shape in the idea of trying to shed “extra” calories, either by forcing oneself to throw up food after eating it, or by some other means, such as extreme dieting, or a severe exercise regimen. For those who suffer from purging bulimia nervosa, it is common to occasionally “binge,” or eat abnormally large amounts of food, prior to purging.
What are the Symptoms?
Signs of bulimia nervosa typically stem from the underlying desire to limit calories and limit weight gain.
Symptoms may include:
- A fixation on one’s weight and body shape
- Lack of control over eating patterns
- Binge eating
- Habitual vomiting following overeating
- Habitual over-exercising following overeating
- Abuse of dietary supplements for weight loss
- Abuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas for weight loss
Who is Affected?
Females are much more likely to develop the disorder than men are, with onset usually occurring in the late teenage years or early adulthood. People with immediate family members suffering from the disorder may be more likely to develop it themselves.
Factors such as peer or societal pressure, as well as athletic performance pressure can also contribute to whether or not a person will develop the disorder. And those persons with psychological or emotional problems (depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism, impulsiveness, low self-esteem, etc.) are usually at a higher risk.
Some studies have shown a link between low levels of serotonin in the brain and bulimia nervosa, although more research is required before this can be correlated with certainty.
What are the Effects?
Bulimia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening disorder and problems could include:
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Lack of menstruation
- Digestive problems
- Irregular bowel movements
- Substance abuse
What is the Treatment?
A combination of counseling, medications and nutrition education is usually required to treat bulimia nervosa. In counseling, the patient can explore the reasons behind his or her unhealthy relationship with food in an attempt to replace these negative beliefs and behaviors with positive ones.
Additionally, many people affected by the disorder suffer from depression and in those cases antidepressants may be helpful. And finally, it’s crucial that the individual learn the science behind maintaining a healthy weight, good eating habits and the body’s caloric needs through nutrition education.
Image by Jackie Gagarin Curry via Flickr