To live with an eating disorder is all-consuming. Coping with a negative relationship with food is not as straight forward as one might assume. The impact of such a condition can last a lifetime. Whilst there are numerous eating disorders experienced by people across the world, bulimia is one of the most common and perhaps the most secretive, as the tell-tale signs can be difficult to spot.
What is bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa, is a common type of eating disorder experienced by women, men and children, although it is most likely to originate for people in their teenage or early adult years. It is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Bulimia sufferers are likely to secretly binge eat large quantities of food in one sitting, then purge (often by vomiting) in order to dispense of the accumulated calories in a way that avoids gaining weight.
People with bulimia will often prioritise the prevention of weight gain, using different methods to ensure that their weight is controlled. As well as self-induced vomiting, popular methods include the use of laxatives, excessive exercise or fasting between binges.
The self-perception of people suffering with this condition is usually incredibly low and flawed, therefore people with bulimia tend to be preoccupied with their appearance and body shape.
What is the cause?
Many factors can play a role in the offset of bulimia. Medical research suggests that it could be genetic, whilst other research indicates a correlation with a desire for control or a person’s response to depression or anxiety issues stemming from grief or stress.
Collective societal expectations or the high expectations we place upon ourselves to look a certain way can be enough to trigger the condition, particularly for people that experience low confidence or a sense of abandonment during adolescence.
It is incredibly tricky to know whether a loved one is battling this condition, as usually people with bulimia are of a normal weight and learn to become masterful in hiding their symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Preoccupation with body size or weight
- Not wanting to eat in public
- Taking trips to the bathroom following a meal, during meals or for long periods of time
- Markings or scars on the knuckles or hands due to induced vomiting
- Damaged teeth and gums
- Constant changes in weight
- A notably unhealthy attitude towards food, such as phases of extreme dieting or fasting
- Facial swelling due to enlarged glands
- A large possession of laxatives or dietary supplements
- Very low self-esteem
- Showcasing an intense fear of weight gain
When to seek help?
The severity of the condition is often deduced by the number of times a person partakes in the binge and purge routine. Bulimia can be classed as severe if it is occurring once a week for a period of three months or more.
Everybody is unique and just as a person may reach for a bottle of alcohol in order to survive the accumulation of stress or pressure, people with an eating disorder often develop a harmful relationship with food as a method of coping with life’s hardships. Bulimia can come and go over years, resurfacing during tough times, or it can stay, remaining a constant daily battle. Whatever your experience with bulimia, it is important that you seek help from a medical professional right away.
Bulimia can instigate a whole host of other health concerns over time, such as impaired relationships, personality disorders, drug or alcohol addiction, heart problems, severe tooth decay and disease of the gums, reproductive problems, digestive problems, kidney failure or severe dehydration that can play havoc with the body.
If you are reluctant to seek support from a medical professional such as a doctor or therapist, please confide in a trusted friend or relative. Do not continue to suffer alone and in secrecy. If you are self- harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek emergency support immediately.
With the right care, recovery is absolutely possible and it is essential that a person suffering with Bulimia have the courage to reach out for help. Effective treatment to the condition involves the adoption of healthy eating patterns in addition to exploring what caused a person’s negative relationship with food to transpire in the first place.
Wishing you happiness and good mental health,