If you have bulimia, you may have an intense fear of weight gain. This can lead you to “purge” — making yourself vomit or using laxatives to relieve yourself of food and calories you think you’ve consumed.
Bulimia is a type of eating disorder. People with bulimia may seem to be obsessed with dieting and weight loss. But unlike people with anorexia, people with bulimia don’t usually try to lose weight by not eating. Instead, they eat what they want — sometimes large amounts of food — and then “purge.”
Purging eliminates the extra calories in two ways: by making oneself vomit or by taking laxatives (drugs that make the body get rid of waste through bowel movements).
What is bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa, commonly called bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with bulimia may secretly binge — eat large amounts of food — and then purge, trying to eliminate the extra calories in an unhealthy way. Purging may be done in several ways, including vomiting or taking laxatives.
Bingeing and purging can disrupt your body’s natural balance, leading to serious health problems, such as dehydration, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. Bulimia can also damage your teeth and cause other digestive problems.
If you have bulimia, you may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or hopeless. But there is hope. Treatment can help you overcome bulimia and return to healthy eating.
Causes of bulimia
The exact cause of bulimia is unknown, but a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors may contribute to the development of the disorder.
Biological factors may include a family history of bulimia or other eating disorders and chemical imbalances in the brain. Psychological factors may include low self-esteem, insecurity, and poor body image. Social factors may include pressure from society to be thin, pressure from family or friends to lose weight, or a history of dieting.
Signs and symptoms of bulimia
Most people with bulimia are of normal weight or slightly overweight. However, you may lose or gain weight depending on how often you binge and purge.
The signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:
-Eating large amounts of food in a short period (bingeing)
-Feeling out of control during a binge
-Purging after a binge by vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or exercising excessively
-Using diet pills, ipecac syrup, or enemas during purging
-Feeling upset, embarrassed, or guilty after eating
-Body dysmorphic disorder – feeling extremely self-critical about your appearance and body shape
Treatment for bulimia
If you have bulimia, you may feel ashamed, guilty, and out of control. You may feel like you can’t stop bingeing and purging. But it is possible to recover from bulimia. You can break the binge-purge cycle and return to healthy eating with treatment.
Treatment for bulimia usually involves some combination of psychological counseling and medications. The type of treatment that’s best for you depends on several factors, including the severity of your symptoms, your overall health and medical history, circumstances, preferences, and what you can afford.
Prevention of bulimia
There is no single cause of bulimia, but several factors can contribute to the development of the disorder. These include:
· An unhealthy preoccupation with body weight and shape
· A family history of eating disorders or other mental health disorders
· LOW self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy
· A history of dieting or yo-yo dieting
· Perfectionism or a need for control
· Trouble coping with stress or strong emotions
There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing bulimia, including:
• Maintaining a healthy body weight by eating a balanced, nutritious diet and exercising regularly.
• Resisting the pressure to conform to unrealistic standards of beauty.
• Learning healthy ways to cope with stress and strong emotions.
• Building a support network of trusted friends and family members.
• Seeking professional help if you think you might have an eating disorder.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Bulimia is a very serious and complex illness, but there is hope. You can recover and lead a healthy, satisfying life with the right treatment, support, and self-care.