What Is Bulimia?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder distinguished by repeated episodes of binge eating, followed by methods to impede weight gain, such as purging, fasting, restrictive eating, and excessive exercise. It mainly affects young women but can affect men and women at any age.

Individuals who suffer from bulimia typically have a fear of weight gain and a warped image of their physical appearance. This can lead to high-expectations and severe self-critique, which can greatly impact an individual’s mental and physical health.

Effects Of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa can result in a wide range of physical and psychological effects that can disrupt many areas of life for the person suffering from it.

Physical Effects

The frequent cycle of binge eating and purging can strain the body and result in serious health consequences. The physical effects of bulimia nervosa can present both in the short-term and long-term and include:

  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dental problems
  • Cardiac complications
  • Damage to the esophagus
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Hormonal issues
  • Fertility issues

Bulimia Nervosa can also co-occur with other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, and substance abuse disorders (SUDs).

Bulimia Nervosa And Substance Use Disorders

According to the National Library of Medicine, eating disorders are often associated with the development of SUDs. Up to 50% of women with an eating disorder concurrently having a SUD. The most common co-occurrence is a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa and an alcohol use disorder.

Psychological Effects

Psychologically, a person suffering from bulimia often experiences intense shame, guilt, embarrassment, and self-loathing.

The constant obsession with body weight and shape can consume their thoughts, also resulting in:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Signs Of Bulimia Nervosa

Experiences with bulimia may differ, and one person may not exhibit all the indicators mentioned below. Understanding the signs may help you or a loved one. Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include:

  • An obsession with body shape and weight
  • A constant fear of gaining weight
  • Eating unrestricted amounts of food at one time
  • Lack of control over how much you eat or what you eat
  • Forced purging to keep from gaining weight after binging
  • Multiple trips to the bathroom, especially after meals
  • Using laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after eating
  • Fasting, regulating calories, or avoiding certain foods between binges
  • Overuse of herbal or dietary supplements
  • Exercising excessively

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Social Impacts Of Bulimia Nervosa

The social implications of bulimia can be detaching and unsettling. Individuals with bulimia nervosa tend to withdraw from social activities, experience intimacy difficulties, and encounter emotional connection challenges. The secretive nature of the condition can also result in a sense of loneliness and isolation.

Overall, bulimia can have a substantial impact on a person’s physical health, psychological well-being, and social functioning. It is important to seek proper treatment to alleviate damaging effects and improve overall quality of life.

Causes Of Bulimia Nervosa

The cause of bulimia nervosa is not fully understood but is thought to be a multifaceted interplay of genetic, psychological, societal, and environmental factors. Some factors believed to contribute to the development of bulimia nervosa are genetic predispositions, societal influences, trauma, and family dynamics.

It’s important to remember that each person’s experience with bulimia nervosa is unique and that not everyone with trauma will develop an eating disorder. Understanding the probable influences can aid in the prevention, early recognition, and suitable treatment of bulimia nervosa.

Treatment Options

Effective treatment for bulimia commonly encompasses a mixture of medical, nutritional, and psychological interventions designed to address the condition’s root cause and help individuals develop a healthier association with food and improved body image.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “In bulimia nervosa, the treatment of choice is cognitive-behavioral therapy, but a greater improvement in mood and anxiety occurs when antidepressant therapy is added.”

Standard methodologies for treating bulimia include psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, medication management, support groups, family therapy, addressing co-occurring disorders, and long-term aftercare.

Treatment approaches are most effective when they are customized to fit the individual’s specific needs and may alter based on dynamics such as the severity of the disorder, the presence of co-occurring conditions, and personal preferences.

Help Is Available

Seeking help from qualified therapists is essential for treating bulimia. Online therapy can provide flexible, tailored support that many suffering from eating disorders find beneficial.

Those who have been battling bulimia nervosa for a longer period of time and who suffer from more severe physical and phycological effects may benefit from the around-the-clock care that inpatient centers can provide. If you are ready to start your journey to recovery and want to discuss treatment options available to you, contact a treatment provider today.