Bulimia Nervosa is simply the recurrent episode of over-eating, followed by the onset of guilt and self-punishment. This leads to compensatory behaviors such as deliberate purging (abusing laxatives, diuretics or by self-induced vomiting) or non-purging activities such as excessive exercising, restrictive dieting or fasting.
Bulimia Nervosa most at times occurs because sufferers want to avoid gaining weight, exude an aura of self-control or cope with psychological stress. This results in the actions of compulsive binge eating. After all is done, they thought is “why not just bring it all out! That way it doesn’t add any unwanted pounds to my body!”, or that they need to exercise control.
Sufferers of Bulimia nervosa are referred to as Bulimics.
Bulimia is characterized by the consumption of prodigious amounts of food, over a ridiculously short period for an average individual. It does not end there. In a bid to regain the control lost from a bulimic’s compulsive binge eating episode, the bulimic engages in inappropriate compensatory behaviors to rid themselves of the glut of food they have consumed.
This eating habit is mostly observed to occur at least once per week within three months. This eating disorder can be deleterious, as it causes serious chemical /fluid imbalance in the body and can interfere with the gut system’s pathways.
Misconceptions of Bulimia Nervosa
This eating disorder is not just a mere weird habit, but more like a partial combination of two eating disorders such as Compulsive Overeating Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder (BED). It is most times triggered by psychological stress, where solace is sort in food, just as we crave for a sugar rush when stressed out.
Not all Bulimics are purgers. Some bulimics engage in prolonged durations of fasting, restrictive dieting and exercises (aerobics or jogging) after periods of self-analyzed overeating. Thus, it should not be puzzling to encounter bulimics who use diet pills or diuretics, all in a bid to burn off excess calories.
A bulimic differs from an anorexic because they maintain a normal weight and frequently engage in binge eating and purging. However, bulimics differs from Binge Eaters due to the compensatory behaviors after binge eating, purging or non-purging activities.
Here’s a word from a bulimic…
“The urge to engage in this comes from a constant need to protect myself, and my body from intimidation that might come as a result of my vulnerability, leading to an increased exposure to hurt. I need to tame myself, I must.“
Causes of Bulimia Nervosa
The causes of Bulimia nervosa is not explicit, but there are concerns over multiple factors that make individuals predisposed to the eating disorder. Thus, it is safe to say that the causes of Bulimia are multifactorial. These presumed triggers include:
- Psychological factors: This includes self-esteem concerning their body size and difficulties in having strong coping mechanisms for an emotional crisis such as the undergoing of normal life transitions etc.
- Biological factors: Genetic conditions or endocrine dysfunctions which can result in, for instance, excessive production of dopamine or serotonin leading to an increased or sensitivity and mood changes. Another factor is the gender occurrence rate, which is higher among women than men.
- Social factor: This involves issues in interpersonal relationships with peers, families that come with uncontrollable responses to anxiety, stress or triggers such as bullying, accidents e.t.c.
Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
It might be difficult to spot a bulimic because their activities are done mostly in secrecy. But there are pointers to trail such behaviors. These symptoms span from binge eating to purging and observed physical appearances. They are:
- Callused or scarred knuckles, from self-induced vomiting.
- Swollen jaw region, from enlarged glands around the jawline and neck regions.
- Constant body weight fluctuations.
- Chemical (Electrolyte) imbalance e.g. low potassium level, resulting in fuzzy thoughts, irregular pulse, and lethargy.
- Chronic dehydration, from constant fluid vomiting.
- Frequently constipated.
- The yellow or clear coloration of the teeth, from the contact of the teeth with gastric acid in vomits.
Binge Eating Signs
- Secrecy in eating or uncomfortable eating out.
- Lacking self-restraint when dining.
- Repetitive consumption of a large amount of food.
- Going for the all-or-nothing technique during meals.
- Hoarding or stock-piling laxatives, diuretics or diet pills for later use.
- Having mouth smelling of vomit.
- Frequent excuse to use the loo after meals.
- Engaging in high-intensity calorie-burning activities.
Signs on Social Engagements
- Frequent mood swings, especially with displays of anger and the need to be left alone.
- Engaging less in social activities with friends and family.
- Obsessions with dieting products and constant comparison of the body with mates.
- Constant complaints about body size and weights.
Health Risks Associated with Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa has been observed to affect adolescents more, by almost 2 percent, and more young women than men. Thus, it is safe to say that teenage girls age 15 to 19 and young female adults in their early 20s are the predisposed populations.
The following factors individuals in developing a bulimic behavior:
- Dieting: Dieting consistently can trigger the urge to binge eat and then purge. Why? Because both dieting and bulimia achieve the same result for the individual, which is restricting severe calories. Boredom, stress and low self-esteem are also triggers of the binge eating and purging cycle.
- Genetics: Individuals from homes with relations exhibiting symptoms of eating disorders are most likely to have an eating disorder. This only relates to a genetic link.
- Emotional and Psychological stress: Having negative feelings about self and challenges handling traumas and emotional stress can trigger the urge to binge eat.
Possible life-threatening causes of Bulimia include:
- Dehydration, resulting in low body electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium.
- Heart challenges: Irregular heartbeats, weak heart muscles, low pressure an pulse.
- Gut complications: Bloating, Irregular bowel movements.
- Dry skin.
- Stomach ulcer
- Brain activities: Fear of weight gain, dizziness, and depression.
- Oral trauma: Gum diseases and tooth enamel erosion, resulting in sensitivity to food intakes.
Ways to Prevent Bulimia Nervosa
The implementation of these ways are not completely sure, but with its application, it will help with a healthy atmosphere to prevent deterioration into unhealthy behaviors. They include:
- Maintaining dining conversations that do not include body size or weight discussions.
- Enforcing the right image of a healthy body in youngsters. This helps build their confidence.
- Frequent talks with your nutritionist on signs of eating disorders to watch out for its development.
- Discouraging unhealthy weight control engagements at home.
- Giving support to relations or friends struggling with eating disorders.
Ways to Curb Bulimia Nervosa
- Medications: Antidepressants are administered to young female adults, struggling emotionally with the behavior. Fluoxetine is, for now, the go-to medication for the treatment of bulimia, but this should be done with the knowledge of your physician.
- Therapeutic support: There are support systems available that help reduces the impact of stress, boredom or loneliness in the fight against bulimia. Also, the help of a psychologist and nutritional therapist will help unravel the psychology and feeding habits triggering bulimic behaviors.