Bulimia: Eating Large Meals followed by Forceful Vomiting
Bulimia nervosa or bulimia is an eating disorder. It is characterized by bouts of binge eating (large quantities are eaten in a short period of time) followed by guilt and regret (it is accompanied by forceful vomiting or purging)
Bulimia may be life-threatening in certain conditions. It is usually seen in patients who have a body dysmorphic disorder or are overly conscious about their appearance. They have an inherent urge to lose weight, which at times may be grossly excessive. It may result in various diseases, malnutrition and at times may be fatal.
Such people generally take the help of therapeutic medicines which are not intended to be used in healthy individuals. Use of vomiting-inducing agents, purgatives, laxatives, diuretics, all of them in the form of self-medication, amounts to drug abuse. Additionally, they may employ rigorous regimens such as fasting, adopting a strict dietary routine or various food fads.
Such people generally equate their self-worth with their body-image and thus, bulimia is very hard to overcome.
Bulimia signs and symptoms may include
- Being overly sensitive as regards your body shape and weight.
- A constant fear of weight gain
- Repeated episodes of binge eating.
- A feeling of inability to control your urge to eat, despite knowing the ill effects.
- Rushing to the washroom immediately after meals
- Forceful vomiting or purging after binge eating
- Fear of eating in public places with others
- Stealing or hoarding food in strange places
- Drinks excessive amounts of water or non-caloric beverages
- Using excessive amounts of mouthwash, mints, and gum to avoid foul breath
- Hiding one’s body with baggy clothes
- Self-medicating on laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating
- Strict fasting, restricting diet or avoiding certain foods between the cravings
- Using dietary supplements, herbal products for losing weight
(The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months to be labelled as bulimia)
Medical help from a general practitioner or a mental health professional is the first step towards treatment. It must not be confused with episodic guilt about obesity or weight gain. Bulimia is a multi-systemic disorder with a biological and a social component. Though the precise cause is not known, a variety of risk factors have been suggested and implicated in the pathogenesis of bulimia.
Genetics: Persons who have a first degree relative with bulimia are at an increased risk of developing bulimia. This shows a biological component. However, no specific genes have been identified yet.
Emotional Well Being: Bulimia is an anxiety disorder that manifests through the above symptoms. Psychological and emotional problems such as substance abuse, depression, mania are linked with an increased risk of developing bulimic tendencies.
Dieting: Persons who aggressively diet are more conscious and aware of their body image perception. They tend to be more receptive to social validation and are at a greater risk of developing bulimia.
The complications resulting from untreated bulimia may manifest themselves in the form of various nervous system disorders and symptoms.
- Low self-esteem and poor socializing tendencies
- Severe dehydration leading to giddiness, vascular shock and kidney failure
- Cardiac arrhythmia and low-output heart failure
- Tooth decay and gum problems
- Irregularity of menstrual cycles in females
- Substance abuse in the form of alcohol and drugs
- Depression and frequent mood swings, bipolar disorders
- Self-harm or suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
- Since it is a behavioral condition, a positive mindset as regards health and well-being are essential to prevent bulimia. Some suggestions and preventive measures include:
- Enabling a healthy body image among one’s children, friends and accepting them the way they are.
- Promoting positive discussions while having meals with family. One must avoid discussions about weight-gain and weight-loss.
- Comparisons with other ‘ideal’ body-image stereotypes should be avoided. Everyone has a unique genetic make-up and a distinct metabolism
- Discourage severe dieting and weight-control measures which negatively impact health. All kinds of supplementation, without medical advice, should be discouraged and avoided.
If it still affects you, confide in a close friend or a family member and seek medical advice.