You feel sick and run towards the bathroom. It feels horrible when you’re sick. However, for some people having to throw up is part of their daily routine, a compulsive habit they got from a fear of losing control over their body. This is a eating disorder called Bulimia Nervosa and in this article I will explain more about what it means to suffer from it.
What is Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa is just like Anorexia Nervosa a mental disorder. It is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.
People with bulimia nervosa often place an excessive emphasis on body shape or weight in their self-evaluation. This can lead to the person’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth being defined by the way they look.
They get lost in a dangerous cycle of out of control eating and attempts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and disgust. These behaviours can become more compulsive and uncontrollable over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting and body image.
Many people suffering from Bulimia Nervosa experience weight fluctuations and do not lose weight. They can remain within a normal weight range, be slightly underweight or sometimes may even gain weight.
How do they try to control and compensate?
Sufferers of Bulimia Nervosa often binge-eat. During a cycle of bingeing they eat a very large amount of food within a short period of time (e.g. within two hours). While eating they feel a sense of loss of control, as if they’re unable to stop themselves from eating. They feel bad and look for ways to compensate.
These compensations could include:
Misusing laxatives or diuretics
Use of any drugs, illicit, prescription and/or ‘over the counter’ inappropriately for weight control (inappropriate use refers to use that is not indicated and for which the drug has not been prescribed).
How to find out if someone has Bulimia Nervosa
The best way is to talk to someone you think might be suffering from an eating disorder. However, people with eating disorders can go to great lengths to keep their eating and exercise habits a secret. As a result, Bulimia Nervosa can often go undetected for long periods of time. As mentioned before, they could be in a healthy weight range so it’s not always easy to be detected by looking at their body.
A few signs of Bulimia Nervosa could include:
- Eating large quantities of food, followed by some type of compensatory behavior
- Dehydration or weakness (resulting in experiencing lightheadedness, lethargy, muscle weakness and/or severe cardiac irregularities.)
- Unusual Behavior around meals (for example: consistently disappearing following a meal, especially to the bathroom, can be a sign indicative of bulimia).
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Dental issues (from the acid in vomit)
- Scars on fingers or knuckles (Russell’s Sign)
- Social Withdrawal (Caused by overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety or even depression)
What are the dangers of Bulimia Nervosa?
The risks associated with bulimia nervosa are severe and may include:
Chronic sore throat, indigestion, heartburn and reflux
Inflammation and rupture of the oesophagus and stomach from frequent vomiting
Stomach and intestinal ulcers
- Dental problems (rotting teeth and/or loss of teeth)
Chronic irregular bowel movements, constipation and/or diarrhoea due to deliberate misuse of laxatives
Osteoporosis (a condition that leads to bones becoming fragile and easily fractured)
Loss of or disturbance of menstrual periods in girls and women
Increased risk of infertility in men and women
Irregular or slow heart beat which can lead to an increased risk of heart failure
- Mental illnesses (irritability, bad focus, fear, anxiety, depression)
How to get Healthy again?
Bulimia Nervosa comes from the need to be able to control something. The source for this need often lies much deeper than only their body-image. By trying to control their body-image, they might feel like they can at least control one part of their life. Of course, this is only making them destroy their body and actually cause them to even lose control over their health. It’s way to complicated to simply make them stop. It’s important that sufferers from eating disorders get the right help to fix whatever it is that they’re struggling with in their lives.
If you suspect someone is suffering from an eating disorder try to carefully talk to them. Keep in mind that it can be quite hurtful if a person isn’t suffering from an eating disorder and yet get blamed for it. Let them know that they are not alone and that you are there for them whenever needed. Also try to get them to seek professional help or inform a professional about the suffering person. There are so many ways to receive the right help, but asking for help could be a big (difficult) step.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Ask your doctor what you can do and they will help you find the right treatment for your situation. Believe me, you CAN and you WILL overcome this if you get help. Asking for help is something to be proud of! You’re choosing a healthy long-lasting life. You’re choosing YOU! And that, is an amazing brave and powerful thing to do! You got this!