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Bulimia Nervosa encompasses an unhealthy relationship with food stemming from a distorted and overly negative body image. A bulimic is someone who repeatedly binges (compulsively overeats) then to compensate for it will purge the food from the body. Up to 3% of women experience bulimia whereas much very few men do. Bulimia typically begins in the mid teens through early twenties with higher incidents reported at college age than teenage.


Regardless of the age, to have bulimia is to live desperately in a world of private shame and self hatred. Once the binging stops the purging begins. Purging methods include fasting, self induced vomiting, excessive exercise, using diuretics, laxatives, enemas, and other medications. Bulimia can be hard to spot because the people who suffer from it maintain normal or slightly higher than normal body weights and most will go to any lengths to hide their food addiction, much as an alcoholic might hide their drinking. A bulimic will eat an entire cake rather than a piece or two, then run to the bathroom and throw it all right back up.


Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of this life threatening eating disorder:

  • Physical : irregular bowel movements, sores in the mouth and throat, dehydration, very dry skin, bloating, abnormal menstrual cycles, erratic heartbeat and tiredness.

  • Behavioral: constant dieting, misuse of laxatives or enemas, frequent visits to the bathroom during and immediately after meals, a preoccupation with body shape and size, exercising for hours on end, hoarding food, eating till in pain from being over full, inability to control eating behaviors, depression, anxiety, negativity toward self, shame and embarrassment.


Treatment and Support for Bulimia

Treatment is available and to be successful, it absolutely must address both the physical and psychological factors. Some naysayers have argued that it is impossible to cure because you can not go cold turkey and completely give up the substance to which you are addicted (in this case food) like you can, say with, tobacco, alcohol or cocaine. Everybody has to eat right? That’s right but Bulimia can be cured.


To recover from any eating disorder you have to take responsibility and be willing to change. It will require not only courage and commitment but a whole treatment team of your friends and families. Do not attempt to deal with this disease on your own. The first step on the road to recovery is recognition. You must see a medical doctor or a mental health professional at the first signs of any eating disorder. For ongoing support during and after medical treatment, there is are organizations like “Overeaters Anonymous” that have its members surrender some food groups such as white flour and sugar, have a forum to address the psychological issues, offer full time support and help many people to freedom from the addiction to food, free of charge. Unfortunately one of the main reasons bulimia goes untreated is because it is not caught and goes unnoticed and unreported and even more unfortunately, results in eventual organ failure and death.


For more information about Bulimia Nervosa visit the Bulimia Nervosa Resource Guide.