Develop a better understanding of bulimia

October 9, 2015

Medically, bulimia is defined as recurrent episodes of binge eating an average of twice a week for at least three months. But there's so much more to the story. We'll teach you more about this difficult and dangerous disease.

Develop a better understanding of bulimia

Understand the science behind bulimia

  • Although bulimia literally means "the hunger of an ox," the majority of bulimics don't have excessive appetites. Instead, their tendency to overeat compulsively seems to arise from psychological problems, possibly complicated by abnormal brain chemistry or a hormonal imbalance.
  • Far more women than men are affected by bulimia.
  • Despite their overeating, most bulimics are of normal weight, although many have a frequent gain or loss of 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) or more. Their ability to maintain normal weight is attributed to the other aspect of bulimia, such as their ability to compensate for overeating by strict dieting and excessive exercise or by purging through self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives or enemas. Some bulimics purge after eating any amount of food.
  • About half of anorexics suffer from bulimia, and both disorders are characterized by a perfectionist focus on dieting and weight and a fear of being unable to control their eating behaviour.
  • These disorders typically begin with a strict weight-loss diet. Driven by extreme hunger, the dieter may succumb to gorging, usually on sweet food that is high in calories like cake or ice cream. Then, feeling guilty and ashamed, the dieter may purge to compensate.
  • Before long, the dieter may be caught in a cycle of binging and purging, with binges often triggered by feelings of anxiety, stress, loneliness, or boredom. A binge may be brief, or it may last for several hours, with anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000 calories consumed.
  • Repeated purging can have serious consequences, including nutritional deficiencies and an imbalance of sodium and potassium, leading to fatigue, fainting, and palpitations. Acids in vomit can damage tooth enamel and the lining of the esophagus. Laxative abuse can irritate the large intestine and produce rectal bleeding. Furthermore, overuse of laxatives disrupts normal bowel function, leading to chronic constipation once the laxatives are discontinued.
  • Perhaps the most severe consequence of bulimia is depression and the high suicide rate that is common among bulimics.

Use this guide to learn more about the characteristics of this dangerous and painful disorder. Bulimia can be treated and cured, so if you're suffering from bulimia or suspect someone you know is, it's very important to seek medical and psychological help.

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