Bulimia nervosa (bulimia) can affect both sexes and span all ages, socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial groups.
Most commonly, however, it occurs in adolescent girls and young women. Bulimia is an eating disorder in which uncontrollable eating of large amounts of food (binges), is followed by intentional vomiting and/or misuse of laxatives, enemas, fasting, or even excessive exercise in order to control weight (purges). The sufferer will often hide this behaviour and to all outward impressions be perfectly normal and with a normal weight.
Although these young people look fine, they also tend to have low self-esteem and a distorted idea of their body image. The process of bingeing and purging gives them a feeling of control, removing the anxiety for a while. They sometimes describe the feeling as being numb, which is better than the pain they feel otherwise. These feelings then make way for those of shame and guilt often followed by stress and depression.
There isn’t one single cause for why a child or adolescent will become bulimic. The combination of their genes, backgrounds and what is happening for them in their lives, along with social attitudes and family influences, can all play their part. Sometimes an event might be a trigger for the onset of the disease. Symptoms of bulimia may include but are not limited to:
- Obsession with food, weight, and body shape
- Rapid uncontrolled binge eating – secretive
- Self-induced vomiting – scarring on the back of the fingers from this process
- Excessive exercise
- Fasting and peculiar eating habits or rituals
- Inappropriate use of laxatives or diuretics
- Irregular or absent menstrual cycle
- Unwarranted unhappiness with oneself and bodily appearance
- Overachieving and impulsive behaviours
In an increasingly image-focussed world, the rise of eating disorders is a distressing reality.
An eating disorder is a mental illness that can affect people of any age, background or culture. Bulimia nervosa is when a person binge eats and then purges by either vomiting or exercising excessively. Bulimia mainly affects women, with adolescents and young women most commonly affected.
A person suffering from bulimia often experiences feelings of shame, disgust and guilt. They will often hide their eating, purging, dieting, and exercising behaviours from their friends and family. People with bulimia regularly have a normal body weight making hiding their condition easier. Bulimia can cause serious health issues such as stomach ulcers, acid reflux and osteoporosis. The cycle of bulimia can lead to obsessions with food, diet, exercise and body image. As with other eating disorders, bulimia is sometimes found in connection with low self-esteem, negative body image, anxiety and depression.
If you suffer from bulimia, it is vital to seek professional help. A psychologist can support you through the recovery process to relearn your approach to food and understand the reasons for your behaviour. With the right help, you can recover.