- Bulimia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with this disorder secretly binge and then purge to get rid of extra calories in an unhealthy way.
- To prevent weight gain and get rid of calories, people may use different methods, such as self-induced vomiting, strict diet, excessive exercise, or weight-loss supplements.
- This disorder is related to self-image and not just about food, so it can be difficult to overcome. However, effective bulimia nervosa treatments can help you feel better and adopt healthy eating habits.
- The binge-purge cycle can occur several times a day to many times a week.
- Bulimia nervosa may also cause an obsession with attaining an unrealistic body shape or size. It tends to start in late childhood or early childhood.
Bulimia Nervosa's Diagnoses Criteria
A comprehensive psychological evaluation can help healthcare professionals understand your connection with food and body image. The healthcare professional can use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria.
The criteria used to diagnose bulimia includes:
- Recurrent binge eating
- Regular purging through vomiting, excessive exercise, misuse of laxatives, or fasting
- Deriving self-worth from weight and body shape
- binge eating and purging that occurs, on average, at least once a week for three months
The DSM-5 also categorizes bulimia from mild to extreme:
- Mild: 1 to 3 episodes per week
- Moderate: 4 to 7 episodes per week
- Severe: 8 to 13 episodes per week
- Extreme: 14 or more episodes per week
You may require further tests if you’ve had bulimia for an extended period. These tests can check for complications that could include issues with your heart or other organs.
Bulimia Nervosa Symptoms
Different people may have different symptoms. You may notice changes in your body and behavior. Unlike anorexia, a person with bulimia nervosa may not reduce a lot of weight, so it can be tough to tell what's happening.
Physical signs of bulimia nervosa include:
- Dental problems
- Sore throat and swollen glands
- Bloodshot eyes, weakness, exhaustion
- Dizziness, sleep problems, feeling cold
- Gaining and losing weight often
Behavioral symptoms of bulimia nervosa are:
- Eating uncontrollably, followed by purging
- Skipping meals
- Stealing food
- Using the bathroom frequently
- Preoccupation with bodyweight
Bulimia Nervosa Risk Factors
Both girls and women are more likely to have bulimia. Factors that increase bulimia nervosa health risks include:
|Risk Factors||What it Entails|
|Biological||People with a first-degree relative (parents, children, and siblings) who have eating disorders are more at risk of developing bulimia. Being overweight as a teen or child also increases the risk chances.|
|Psychological and emotional issues||Depression and anxiety are closely linked with eating disorders. People who suffer from bulimia nervosa think negatively about themselves. In some situations, environmental stress and traumatic events may be contributing factors.|
|Dieting||People who follow a strict diet are at higher risk of developing eating disorders.|
Bulimia Nervosa Treatment
When you suffer from bulimia nervosa, you may need different treatments. A combination of psychotherapy with antidepressants is the most effective way to cope with the disorder. Here’s a look at bulimia treatment options.
- Nutritional Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, family-based treatment, and interpersonal psychotherapy help improve signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa.
The only antidepressant approved by FDA to treat bulimia is fluoxetine (Prozac), a type of SSRI, which is highly effective.
In this therapy, your dietitian helps you to identify your body signals of fullness and hunger. They help you stabilize your weight and develop healthier eating habits.
Bulimia Nervosa Complications
Bulimia may cause life-threatening complication that possibly includes:
- Negative self-esteem, relationship problems, and social functioning
- Dehydration can lead to kidney failure
- Heart problems
- Digestive issues
- Anxiety, depression, and personality disorder
- Misuse of drugs or alcohol
Bulimia Nervosa Prevention
There is no certain way to prevent bulimia nervosa, but you can help someone toward professional treatment or a healthy lifestyle. Here are some ways you can help:
- Reinforce a healthy body image in your children, regardless of body shape and size. Make them confident about their appearance.
- Have enjoyable, regular family meals together.
- Don’t talk about weight at home. Instead, focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Discourage dieting, especially when it contains unhealthy weight control tips, such as fasting or supplements
- Consult with your primary healthcare provider. They may find early signs of an eating disorder and help prevent its development.
Bulimia nervosa signs and symptoms include fear of weight gain, binge eating in one sitting, forcing yourself to vomit, exercising too much, and feeling a loss of control during binging. When you notice one or several symptoms of bulimia nervosa, talk to your primary healthcare provider immediately.
Purging is an unhealthy way to get rid of extra calories. People who suffer from bulimia nervosa sometimes make themselves vomit to eliminate the extra calories they consume. Bingeing and purging cycle isn't an effective way to reduce weight. Instead, many people gain weight over time.
The bingeing and purging cycle takes a toll on your digestive system. It not only affects your physical health but can cause fatigue and weakness. A lack of nutrients slowdowns body processes in an attempt to protect energy. Induced vomiting and diarrhea can disrupt your body.
People who have bulimia may develop swollen parotid glands because of repeated purging episodes. These glands are in front of the ears and may cause swollen face.
If you find someone with bulimia, talk to them about your concerns. It can be challenging to talk about it, and they can deny having the disorder. But just offering help and listening to them can be the encouragement they need to open up. Choose a good time and place to talk with them. Just listen without judging them. Be patient and supportive when listening.
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