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What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is a mental disorder that mostly affects women and can lead to painful health issues and long-lasting, detrimental ideas about body image. If someone you know has this disorder, help her seek treatment immediately.

What is Bulimia?

According to the NIMH, bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is “characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes.” The characteristics do not stop there as the person who does this will then exhibit “behavior that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors.”

These two acts go together for a person who is bulimic and the combination is referred to as a binge-purge cycle. A woman suffering from bulimia feels that “she cannot control the amount of food eaten” (OWH). She will usually feel ashamed afterward which is why she compensates by purging. The cycle often causes or goes along with other mental disorders like anxiety and depression and may cause other extreme health effects.

Signs of Bulimia

binge and purge

People with bulimia engage in binge eating and then purge their food after.

Women will show physical as well as behavioral signs of bulimia. Some of the signs are:

  • Physical signs
    • “Swollen cheeks or jaw”
    • “Teeth that look clear”
    • Blood vessels in the eyes that are broken
    • “Chronically inflamed and sore throat” (NIMH)
    • Gastrointestinal problems (such as acid reflux)
    • Dehydration
  • Behavioral signs
    • Going to the bathroom every time she finishes a meal or several times during the meal (in order to throw up)
    • Using “diet pills, or taking pills to urinate or have a bowel movement” (OWH)
    • Excessive exercising
    • Acting strangely or being ashamed after eating
    • Obsessing over weight and body image

It is sometimes difficult to pinpoint bulimia as a woman who is suffering from the disorder might not be excessively skinny like someone who is anorexic. Women who are bulimic are all different shapes and sizes. Therefore, the physical and behavioral signs are very important to notice if you believe someone you know might be bulimic.

Treatment for Bulimia

Bulimia can be very detrimental to someone’s health, causing gastrointestinal problems, dental problems, and severe dehydration. There is also the chance of a person developing additional mental disorders if she has not already. If someone you know is suffering from bulimia, seeking treatment as soon as possible is very important for recovery.

CBT (or cognitive-behavioral therapy) can be highly effective in treating bulimia. Also, antidepressants are also helpful, “such as fluoxetine (Prozac), which is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating bulimia nervosa” (NIMH). When a woman who is suffering from bulimia receives effective treatment, she may start to feel as if she is getting her life back.

According to the OWH, “bulimia affects people from all walks of life, including males, women of color, and even older women.” It is necessary to remember that anyone could be affected by this disorder as it causes so many issues and often goes undetected for a long time. Bulimia causes many problems and should be treated as soon as possible for the health and safety of the person who is struggling with the disorder.

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