Bulimia is an eating disorder in which a person has episodes of eating large amounts, secretly, also known as binging, followed by some form of weight control that is neither normal nor appropriate, such as, excessively exercising, using laxatives, diuretics, or forcing themselves to vomit, also known as purging. This eating disorder involves much more than out-of-control dieting, it also involves psychological issues. Bulimia can become an obsession to the person who has it, and normally happens after a person has had many unsuccessful diet attempts.
People with bulimia often experience significant changes in their weight, but is not normally as obvious or drastic as weight loss is in a person with anorexia. They are often ashamed of what they are doing, therefore; are secretive about their eating habits. The binge eating is not triggered by hunger; it is in response to emotional stress, depression, or feelings regarding their weight, body shape, or food in general. A person with bulimia feels as if they lost control when they were binging so they purge to feel as if they have regained control. Some people with bulimia may go for days without eating after they have a binging episode rather that force themselves to vomit, use laxatives, or diuretics. There are some that will exercise in excessive amounts right after they binge. People with bulimia do this not only to regain some control that they feel they have lost, but they also do these things to attempt to lose weight that they feel they have gained during their binge.
There is no definite known cause to bulimia. Many doctors feel that bulimia begins with a person disliking their own body. The person may look in a mirror and see themselves as overweight. This misconception of themselves leads to dieting. Extreme dieting can later lead to bulimia.
In some cases of bulimia, it does revolve around the person’s body image. In these cases, the person with bulimia has certain neurological and medical conditions that lead to the bulimia. It is believed that bulimia may be related to abnormal neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically, serotonin. Some studies have shown that people with bulimia have alterations in their metabolic rates, decreased perceptions of being full, and abnormalities in the way the nervous system interacts with the production of hormones.
When a doctor is diagnosing a person with bulimia, the disorder does not normally even come to surface until a medical or psychological problem comes to the surface. Diagnosing bulimia itself can be difficult because the person tries to hide what they are doing. For an accurate diagnosis, the person needs to be completely honest with themselves, as well as their doctor. There are five common things that a doctor looks for when diagnosing bulimia. First, the doctor looks fro recurring episodes of binge eating. The doctor considers binge eating to mean that the person eats more food in a two hour period than a normal person would during the same time frame and under the same circumstances. The doctor also looks for signs that the person has a feeling of losing control during a binge or a feeling that they cannot stop eating. Along with the binge eating, the doctor looks for ways that the person may try to compensate for the binge; purging, laxative use, excessive exercise, and fasting are examples. If the binging and the compensatory behavior happens at least twice a week for three months and does not occur only with periods of anorexia, and there is an apparent dissatisfaction with their body’s shape or weight, the doctor will probably diagnose the person with bulimia.
There are signs that you can look for and may notice that could indicate that someone has bulimia. If the person goes to the bathroom after every meal, to force themselves to vomit, exercises all of the time, in excess, is always preoccupied with their weight or body image, the person may have bulimia. You may even see signs that the person forces themselves to vomit, even if you are not there to see them go to the bathroom to do it. You may notice that the person has swollen jaws or cheeks, there may be broken blood vessels in the person’s eyes, and their teeth may look clear because of the damage done to the tooth enamel.
If a person forces themselves to throw up, oral problems may manifest. The repeated exposure to stomach acids can eat at the enamel on the teeth. There may be an increase in the number of cavities the person has, along with sensitivity to hot or cold foods. There may be swelling and soreness in the salivary glands. The esophagus and the colon are the most affected areas. Repeated vomiting can cause ulcers, ruptures, strictures, and. acid reflux.
Irregular periods or the absence of periods often happens in women with bulimia. This is due to malnutrition and/or the weight changes. A pregnant woman’s unborn child can be affected by the mother having bulimia. Even an infant who has a mother with bulimia can be affected. Both an inborn child and an infant can have complications due to the mother having bulimia.
When a person with bulimia repeatedly misuses diuretics, fluid can actually build up in their body. Repeated use of laxatives can cause a person to become dependant on them for normal bowel movements. If a person loses normal function of their colon, they may need surgery to attempt to restore the colon. Normal bowel function can take weeks after laxative abuse is stopped. If a person with bulimia misuses both diuretics and laxatives, they may develop a serious electrolyte imbalance. This can be fatal if not treated. In addition, a person with bulimia can serious inhibit their own body’s ability to maintain their life. Any psychological problems can rise to very serious levels and even inhibit normal body function.
Treatment for people with bulimia may include a doctor prescribing anti-depressants. It is common for treatment to also include therapy. If the bulimia is very serious, hospitalization may be needed to help restore the person’s normal body function. Normal eating patterns as well as helping the person deal with any psychological issues are both addressed in treatment. For treatment to be successful, the person with bulimia needs to put forth the effort to recover. Patience is required of all those around the person who are involved in the treatment process. Bulimia can be overcome; it just takes time, patience, and effort.