What is Bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person binges and purges. The person may eat a lot of food at once and then try to get rid of it, or compensate, by vomiting, using laxatives, or some other form of purging.
Like Anorexia, people with Bulimia are intensely focused on their weight and body image. And because many people with Bulimia can stay at a normal weight, they may keep their condition a secret for years. However, if left treated, Bulimia can lead to serious medical issues and can eventually lead to life-threatening conditions.
A Secretive Disorder
Bulimia is a secretive disorder, probably even more so than Anorexia. Plagued by obsessive thoughts about what is going to be eaten, or not eaten, when exercise is going to take place and how is it all going to work out, or how to get rid of “all that food that was just eaten” are all familiar dilemmas for those with Bulimia.
Who would want others to know that they engage in binging or perhaps even worse, throwing up, or using laxatives? “Oh Gross”, comes to mind for many who have developed Bulimia; or at least they believe that is what others would think if they only knew.
Like other eating disorders, no one ever starts out on a path to get Bulimia. Again, a purpose of being of healthier or fitting back into a pair of jeans that now may not fit, or just getting active to feel better could have started the journey.
There are underlying issues for some individuals that have caused such painful feelings that the binge behavior (that is experienced by all who struggle with Bulimia) is a temporary distraction that seems like a much more comfortable place than staying with the miserable way they feel.
For a short while after the binge or purge, it seems worth the effort, but that is transient and then whatever the problems were resurface and the cycle continues. Feeling trapped in a vicious repetitive dark place consumes those who struggle with Bulimia.
Who Gets This Disorder?
How Would I Know if This Was Going On With Me?
Bulimia can develop at any time or basically at any age. However, it tends to develop during the teenage years for most. Many people who have struggled with Anorexia often go on to develop Bulimia. After a prolonged period of restricting, the body may respond to the starvation of Anorexia by being triggered to overeating or binging in an out of control manner, to preserve itself. Feelings of guilt and disgust are feelings that frequently follow this act.
Many times these feelings are so extreme that some kind of relief is sought through engaging in eating disorder behaviors. These behaviors could include a form of extreme exercise that may last for hours even though there is an existing injury, throwing up, taking laxatives far beyond the recommended dose, or taking other medications such as diet pills or water pills to help reduce weight.
What Would Be The Big Deal If I Did Have Bulimia?
Few people know that although Bulimia is not as life threatening as Anorexia, it can cause death. Serious complications such as potassium and sodium depletion can have fatal outcomes. These electrolytes have important roles in our lives; For example, they regulate cardiac function and fluid balance. Risk of esophageal tears or hemorrhage is a constant potential when anyone throws up, however, the risk of damage or death is heightened when the frequency of purging increases.
Unfortunately denial reduces fear even when blood is seen in vomit or when someone passes out. Many people who struggle with Bulimia go undetected since they minimize the severity of “just being Bulimic.”
Eating Disorders, including Bulimia, cause more deaths than any other mental health issue or disorder. However, they are the leading cause of death in the young female population. Many think, “Oh that would never happen to me”, and for many it does not, but over 500,000 lose this battle every year.
There is no need for anyone to struggle with or die from Bulimia or any other eating disorder. Stepping out of the darkness of denial and having a voice to let those who care help is the first step to Recovery. Recognizing that the person is not the eating disorder is critical to separating from the convincing and destructive nature of Bulimia.
Will It Ever Go Away?
At Canopy Cove we believe that every person has the ability to separate and recover from Bulimia, in spite of the fear that is felt as they begin to think about life without it. Everyone has the capacity to feel their feelings and make it through. We strongly encourage and support our clients as they work through this war.