What Is Bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by binging and purging of food. Bulimics have a poor self-image and the disorder is an extension of that. Women as well as men suffer from this type of eating disorder.

Bulimia can begin as a way to finally get off the rollercoaster of dieting. Many bulimics have dieted before but without sustained success. They begin again, only this time, they take extreme measures to try to achieve their desired body image.

While bulimia affects mostly women in the United States, a fair percentage of men have also been identified as bulimic. Bulimics are prone to compulsions. When they eat, they do it in secret and are out of control. They eat until they have stuffed as much food in themselves as they can. The binging can be due to emotional stress within their peer group or at home.

After eating as much as they can, they will immediately vomit. Vomiting removes the evidence that they were ever out of control in the first place. Even after normal meals they will excuse themselves and go to the bathroom where they force themselves to throw up.

You may notice that your son, daughter or friend is bulimic. They may have been previously addicted to something else like drugs or alcohol. Their weight will fluctuate but it doesn’t usually reach the low level of a person suffering from anorexia nervosa.

People suffering from bulimia are often seen going to extremes. They will exercise more than normal in an attempt to lose weight. They may even fast a lot.

When periods of stress occur, they will binge. Something in their lives has gone awry and they can’t control it. Eating foods that comfort you has been shown to release endorphins in the brain. These “feel good” secretions calm you down. Once that calm settles on them, the bulimic will stop eating.

After the eating there is a sense of guilt about the entire experience. Seeing the result of their binging around them, increases these feelings. To gain control of their bodies, they purge. Purging is usually done with a finger down the throat. To further purge, an abuse of enemas, laxatives and other diuretics begins.

Bulimia is a serious condition. The constant presence of stomach acid in the throat can cause strictures, ulcers and other digestive system conditions such as abnormal bowel function. Teeth enamel will erode away from the constant contact with acid. Female bulimics can also stop having periods as a result of the extreme dieting and exercise. Bulimics have a higher rate of recovery than anorexics but sometimes surgical intervention is necessary.

If you know someone who you suspect or know is showing signs of bulimia, get help for them. Only trained professionals can guide them to the road of recovery and stop the compulsive behavior.