Bulimia – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

If binge eating causes you momentary pleasure followed by guilt and if fear of gaining weight is enemy number 1, these are the main indications that you may be suffering from an eating disorder called bulimia.

Eating disorders are a real problem, which can affect everyone regardless of social class, but especially girls and women in adulthood.

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia or bulimia nervosa is a serious and life-threatening psychological eating disorder . It is usually characterized by eating an abnormal amount of food in a short period of time, followed by an attempt to avoid gaining weight by expelling what has been consumed.

Methods of expulsion include forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, extreme or prolonged periods of exercise, fasting or extreme diet.

Often, in these episodes of internal compulsion, a person suffering from bulimia disorder will experience a loss of control and engage in frantic efforts to undo these feelings.

People with bulimia often have an unreal body image . They are obsessed with their weight and are intensely self-critical. Many of them are of normal weight and even overweight, which makes bulimia difficult to perceive and diagnose.

Research indicates that about 1.5% of women and 0.5% of men will experience bulimia at some point in their lives. As mentioned before, it is more common in women , especially during adolescence and early adulthood.

It is estimated that 20% of women who go to college have symptoms of bulimia. Artists are also at greater risk of eating disorders, as are athletes whose bodies and weights are closely monitored . Dancers, models and actors may also be at greater risk.

Bulimia Symptoms

The most common physical symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Constant weight change
  • Blood vessels burst in the eyes
  • Enlarged glands in the neck and under the jaw line
  • Oral trauma, such as lacerations in the lining of the mouth or throat from repetitive vomiting
  • Spotted teeth (from stomach acid)
  • Calluses on the back of the hands
  • Inflammation of the esophagus
  • Constant vomiting
  • Chronic gastric reflux
  • Infertility

Signs and symptoms of binge eating:

  • Disappearance of large quantities of food
  • Eating in secret
  • Lack of control while eating
  • Change between periods of excess and fasting
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Comments & Reviews about being fat
  • Concern about weight and body
  • Strongly negative self-image
  • Excessive use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Use of supplements or herbs for weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • Do not participate in normal social activities
  • Smell of vomit

If left untreated, bulimia can cause serious complications to the human body, including kidney failure, gingivitis, tooth decay, digestive problems or constipation, chronic dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, anemia and electrolyte imbalances, which can result in cardiac arrhythmia, arrest heart failure or finally death

Women may experience the absence of a menstrual period . In addition, anxiety, depression and drug or alcohol abuse may be common in people with bulimia.

Causes of Bulimia

The exact cause of bulimia is currently unknown; although it is thought that multiple factors contribute to the development of this disorder.

People with mental health conditions or a distorted view of reality are at greater risk. The same is true for people with a strong need to meet social norms and expectations.

Those who are highly influenced by the media may also be at risk. Some of the main causes of bulimia include:

  • Stressful transitions or life changes
  • History of abuse or trauma
  • Negative body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Professions or activities that focus on appearance / performance
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Perfectionism
  • Impulsivity

Some research says that bulimia is hereditary , or can be caused by a deficiency of serotonin in the brain.

How to Diagnose Bulimia?

In the diagnosis of bulimia, a variety of tests are performed. First, the doctor will do a physical examination, he may also order blood and urine tests. A psychological assessment will help determine the person’s relationship with food and their body image.

The doctor may use criteria to diagnose mental disorders. These criteria used in the diagnosis of bulimia include:

  • Food compulsion
  • Regular expulsion through vomiting
  • Persistent behaviors to expel what was consumed, such as exaggerated exercises, misuse of laxatives and fasting
  • Change in self-esteem for weight and body shape

The severity of bulimia can be determined by the frequency with which, on average, the patient exhibits binge eating behaviors and expulsion of the ingested food.

Bulimia has a classification that goes from mild to extreme:

  • Light: 1 to 3 episodes per week
  • Moderate: 4 to 7 episodes per week
  • Serious : 8 to 13 episodes per week
  • Extreme : 14 or more episodes per week

When a patient is diagnosed with bulimia for a long time, he will likely need additional tests. These tests can check for complications that can include problems with the heart, kidneys or other organs.

Bulimia Treatment

As bulimia is not only an eating disorder , but also a psychological disorder , treatment is not only focused on food and nutrition education, but also on mental health treatment.

Since negative body image and low self-esteem are often the factors underlying the root of bulimia, it is important that therapy is integrated into the recovery process. Treatment for bulimia usually includes:

  • Discontinuing the cycle of compulsive expulsion, the initial phase of treatment for bulimia involves breaking this harmful cycle and restoring normal eating behaviors.
  • Food education and nutritional support, which means learning about healthy eating habits , forming a nutritious meal plan and possibly a controlled weight loss program.
  • Improve negative thoughts, phase of treatment with bulimia where you focus on recognizing and changing irrational beliefs about weight, body shape and diet.
  • To solve emotional problems, this phase of treatment with bulimia focuses on curing emotional problems that may have caused the eating disorder. Treatment can address interpersonal relationships and may include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, also called conversation therapy and family therapy.
  • Antidepressants and anxiolytics to treat anxiety and depression caused by overeating .
  • Treatment for complications, which may include hospitalization for severe cases of bulimia

Successful treatment usually involves in addition to antidepressants and psychotherapy, it also involves a collaborative approach between the doctor, mental health care professional, family and friends.

See also: Anorexia: Main Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

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My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.

Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.

Dr. Alexis Hart

My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother. Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.

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