Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder. It begins as a psychological problem. Over time bulimia can lead to serious physical medical problems and may even be fatal. People who are bulimic have episodes of binge eating. After binge eating they will often use an inappropriate method of weight loss control called purging. Purging can be done by forced vomiting. It can also be achieved by fasting, using enemas. Some bulimics use large quantities of laxatives and diuretics. Bulimics often exercise compulsively.
A bingeing episode is when a bulimic eats a large amount of food than most would eat in a single sitting. Bulimics do not binge because of hunger, they eat to help relieve stress and depression and self esteem problems. Bulimics can consume up to 20,000 calories at a time. They binge on “comfort foods”. Foods like ice cream, cakes, sweet foods, high calories foods and pastries. A bulimic can binge from twice a day to several times a day. These episodes typically happen at least twice a week for at least three months.
During an episode of bingeing, they may experience a loss of control. After the bingeing is done, the loss of control is usually followed by calmness. This is usually short lived and self loathing is often experienced. The overeating and purging is a cycle that can soon become an obsession. Purging after bingeing may serve a couple of purposes to the bulimic. It may prevent weight gain and may temporarily relieve depression and negative feelings, so the bulimic may feel that they have a sense of control over their lives.
People who are bulimic look perfectly normal. They are mostly at an average weight or they can be overweight. Women who are bulimic are usually high achievers. Bulimics tend to indulge their cravings, but not only with food. They may indulge and act on impulse when it comes to sexual encounters and using drugs. They may often do binge buying and shoplifting.
Depending on how often a person binges and purges, their overall health may vary. The consequences are usually due to the purging. The physical consequences may include swelling of the stomach and or pancreas. They may be inflammation in the throat and enlarges salivary glands. Bulimics often have tooth decay and gum disease from frequently vomiting stomach acids. Vomiting often may also deplete the potassium and water in their bodily tissues. This may cause abnormal heart rhythms, paralysis and muscle spasms. Some of these physical problems may lead to death. Another danger for bulimics is an increased risk for suicidal depression.
There is no known cause for bulimia. Some health professionals believe that it begins with dissatisfaction of their body and concern with their body size and shape. Sufferers have unhealthy feelings in regard to themselves. Bulimia affects about 10% of college age women in the United States. About 10% of bulimic patients are men. Of all the individuals suffering form bulimia, about 10% of them will die from cardiac arrest, starvation, other medical complications and suicide.