Bulimia: What it is and What to do

Bulimia is a fairly well-known eating disorder; people may assume that it only involves eating sweets and throwing up afterwards – but it is so much more than that. In addition, due to society’s opinion that throwing up is disgusting, it can be much harder to admit you suffer from this condition than others.

You might wonder why someone might develop this disorder and there is a variety of potential reasons; low self-esteem, bullying, a traumatic event and body dysmorphia. It is also very common to begin purging if you are already suffering from another eating disorder, for example anorexia.

Bulimia is a mental illness and an eating disorder, that is extremely dangerous as this disease encourages you to lose weight through damaging methods. Often, people suffering from bulimia will eat a large amount of food quickly and then get rid of it through inducing vomiting and/or laxative abuse. Bulimia could be described as similar to an addiction – those affected feel compelled to purge and it may bring a feeling of relief.

High fat and unhealthy foods are often consumed to binge on, before purging.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

Bulimia can be very hard to spot as the sufferer may be eating normally and the disordered behaviour normally occurs whilst they are alone. It is also hard to monitor this disorder, as the purging takes place in the bathroom, therefore, in some eating disorder facilities, those struggling may have supervised bathroom breaks. It is important to note that whilst bulimia is associated with eating a large quantity of food, the sufferer’s idea of a large quantity may be extremely distorted – a slice of bread could be a binge for them. Here are some signs and symptoms:

  • Absence after meals
  • Binge eating
  • Distorted body image
  • Frequent sore throats
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Low blood pressure
  • Anaemia

Treatment for Bulimia

If you are suffering from bulimia then please seek help. This is a debilitating, dangerous disease and you deserve to get better. It is possible to recover and the first step to recovery from bulimia is going to your doctor; every individual needs a personalised treatment plan and what works for you, might not work for others. There are a few different treatment options available, and your doctor will recommend what is appropriate for you.

  • The only medication proved to help treat this disorder is fluoxetine, which in this case would be taken daily with a strength of 60mg. This is an antidepressant and reduces anxiety but will work even if you do not suffer from either of these conditions. However, your doctor may recommend something similar which may be of benefit, even though studies are yet to confirm that other medications are beneficial.
  • More than half of those suffering from bulimia, have another mental illness, such as anxiety, depression or OCD. Treating these additional disorders, will help to tackle the bulimia itself and restore full health. It may be hard to recover from bulimia, if other conditions are not treated.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a very effective form of therapy, which changes your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours in a positive way which can be advantageous for overcoming bulimia. There are also inpatient facilities that may be appropriate if the disorder is very severe, there you will learn positive coping mechanisms and be placed on a healthy meal plan.
  • I recommend telling the people who are close to you that you are struggling with this condition – they should not judge. This is a legitimate medical condition. By telling your friends, you will have people to talk to and to provide support for you. A problem halved is a problem shared. Furthermore, they may pay more attention to your bathroom breaks after eating, which may dissuade you from purging.
Fluoxetine, is an SSRI, and I have explained how it works on this page: Treatment Options for Anxiety and Depression

Consequences of Bulimia

Bulimia can be a life threatening disease, and it has many long-term and short-term side effects; infertility, dehydration and stomach ulcers. Due to the acidity of the stomach contents, frequent vomiting can damage the gums, oesophagus and teeth enamel – you cannot repair enamel damage. The consequences of dehydration, starvation or due to the stress placed on your heart, this disorder can be lethal. The frightening consequences of bulimia should be enough to encourage you to decide to recover from bulimia.

I hope this post has helped you to understand a little more about bulimia, how to treat it and how to recognise it. This is a mental illness that you can recover from. Whether you are purging infrequently or twice a day, it’s crucial that you seek help. 1.6 million people struggle with eating disorders in the UK, so do not feel any shame surrounding this – it’s not your fault. Take the first step to recovery today and make an appointment with your doctor, you can fight this disease away.





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