Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia, is a dangerous (potentially life-threatening) eating disorder. Individuals with bulimia engage in a cycle of binge eating and purging. Purging is the compensatory action that typically takes place following a binge, as a way to counteract the affects of that binge. Purging may be achieved through self-induced vomiting, exercise, or the use of laxatives. The cycle of binging and purging lead to bulimia symptoms that can have significant impacts on a person’s wellbeing, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Causes of Bulimia
While the exact cause is unknown, it is likely a combination of factors that contribute to one’s risk of developing bulimia.
- Genetics – if there is a family history of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia
- Trauma – a history of emotional, physical or sexual abuse can increase a persons susceptibility to eating disorders
- Pressure to lose weight – whether from media or family/friends, receiving messages promoting weight loss or an ideal body shape and size can contribute to the risk of developing an eating disorder.
Bulimia Symptoms and Signs
There is a wide range of bulimia symptoms, as each person is affected differently. Nonetheless, a bulimic will not only be affected physically, but also emotionally and/or behaviorally.
- Weight fluctuations
- Dizziness or fainting
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- Callused fingers or knuckles
- Discoloration of the teeth
Behavioral and emotional symptoms:
- Discomfort eating around others
- Uses the bathroom immediately following a meal
- Has rituals around food
- Mood swings
- Social withdrawal
How to Help a Loved One
If you have a friend or family member with bulimia, there are ways to offer support and encourage recovery in a loving way.
- Educate yourself – learning more about bulimia can help you better understand what your loved one is going through. Also, educating yourself on bulimia symptoms will allow you to recognize when your loved one is struggling.
- Be mindful around food and body talk – because bulimics have a difficult relationship with food and body image, it can be very helpful to minimize the talk around things like diets, weight loss, body shape and size, etc.
- Talk – opening up about bulimia (or any eating disorder) may be very difficult for your loved one. Try initiating a conversation about your loved one’s eating disorder. This can help facilitate the communication, in addition to letting your loved one know you recognize he or she is struggling.
- Ask – it is perfectly acceptable to ask your loved one how you can best support him or her.
- Encourage professional help and eating disorder treatment.
If you or someone you know suffers from bulimia, contact HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY at 518-218-1188 or in Poughkeepsie, NY at 845-372-4367 to find out more about treatment options and services.