Bulimia nervosa (often shortened to just bulimia) is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by behaviors such as purging meant to prevent weight gain or maintain an unhealthy weight. Bulimia is often coupled with anorexia nervosa, together or separately they can lead to serious health problems and even death.

For individuals suffering from bulimia, purging after a meal can be seen as a reward within itself or a way to cope with daily stresses and uncontrollable feelings. Binge eating usually occurs in secrecy, rarely in the presence of others. During or after the binge, bulimics may feel shame or a loss of control. While binge eating may temporarily numb a person’s negative feelings, emotions of failure soon follow.

The most common form of behavior following binge eating is induced vomiting. For individuals with bulimia, this instant purging may temporarily reduce the feeling of fullness and can give them a short respite from their fear of weight gain from the initial food binge. Some bulimics say that the purge is seen as a regain of control from the binge, which is marked by uncontrolled or impulsive behavior. Like they often binge in secrecy, purging is often also done in private, leaving sufferers with even more feelings of alienation and helplessness.

Like anorexia nervosa sufferers, people with bulimia are also obsessively involved with their body shape and weight.

Bulimia is a devastating eating disorder that can cause serious medical complications such as:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Esophageal tears
  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Dental problems
  • Chronic fatigue

If any of the following symptoms apply to you or you notice a loved one suffering with them, please contact us.

  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Hiding food or food containers and wrappers
  • Frequent trips to the restroom after meals
  • Signs and/or smells of vomiting
  • Presence of laxatives and use of diuretics
  • Abuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Unusual swelling of the cheek or jaw area
  • Creation of complex rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions
  • Enemas
  • Diet pills
  • Ipecac
  • Disinterest in food or eating
  • Strict diets or fasting
  • Insulin abuse
  • Yellowing of the teeth
  • Chew-spitting
  • Vigorous or excessive exercise

If left untreated, bulimia can become life-threatening, especially when coupled with anorexia. With professional treatment, healthy eating habits are within reach. If you or someone you know has bulimia, contact Brookhaven Hospital today at 888-298-4673 to learn more about our bulimia treatment options.

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