Eating Disorders: Bulimia Nervosa

Key characteristics of Bulimia include: “ binging (the intake of large quantities of food) and purging (elimination of the food through artificial means such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives, periods of fasting, or excessive exercise),” and is most common in young adult and adolescent women. Common in those with bulimia is a feeling of loss of control and guilt over their eating. In contrast to those suffering from Anorexia, Bulimics are often of normal weight.

According to the exact cause of bulimia is not known though a number of factors may influence its development:

* “Studies have shown eating disorders occur more frequently in relatives of people with bulimia than in others. This frequency appears to be related to genetics, but family influences may also be important.”

* “Researchers have suggested that altered levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain play a role. Serotonin levels can be related to the development of clinical depression.”

* “Experts agree that cultural factors are very important in the development of eating disorders. Modern society's emphasis on health, in particular thinness, can greatly influence those who seek the acceptance of others.”

Side Effects as listed on
Physical Side Effects:
  • Esophageal problems
  • Vocal chord damage
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive problems
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Elimination problems
  • Dental Damage
  • Organ damage
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Enlarged salivary glands
  • Dry skin
  • Decreased bone density
  • Menstrual dysfunction
  • Hormone irregularities
  • Insomnia
  • Low red blood cell levels
  • Weak muscles
  • Immune system damage
  • Out of control feelings
  • Mood changes
  • Avoidance of others
  • Constantly thinking about food
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Unable to eat with others
  • Poor body-image
Other bulimia side effects include difficulty conceiving a child, a larger risk of miscarriage and premature birth after conception. Some theorize that nature requires humans and animals to be healthy themselves in order to continue to propagate a species that is capable of surviving—theory of natural selection. Bulimia side effects damage a woman’s body which can physically inhibit her from having healthy children in the future.
Laxative and Diuretic Use:
It is estimated that one third of people struggling with bulimia use laxatives, and roughly 10% take diuretics. Various effects include:
Laxative Abuse:
  • Chronic intestinal inflammation
  • Chronic constipation
  • Irregular bowel function
  • Systemic toxicity
Diuretic abuse:
  • Kidney damage
  • Body fluid stagnation
  • Blood pressure complication

Bulimics are more likely to admit that a problem exists “when interviewed by an understanding professional.” An evaluation should be done to determine if a serious medical complication exists, requiring immediate care.

Symptoms that require urgent treatment:

* “Severe weakness or abdominal pain should be evaluated as soon as possible.

* Vomiting blood could indicate a tear of the esophagus or stomach.

* Many people with bulimia also suffer from clinical depression, and any behavior or statements from someone that suggests that the person may be contemplating suicide is reason to bring that person in for evaluation at once.”
Bulimics may be malnourished which can cause anemia, poor healing, and increase the risk of periodontal disease."Laboratory tests may show low blood sugar, electrolyte changes, low potassium (caused by laxative use). These, and other side effects, can cause “life-threatening disturbances of the heart rhythm.”

More on Oral Effects
"The dental changes seen in many people with bulimia are often recognizable," according to Frequent vomiting may cause your salivary glands to swell and the tissues of your mouth and tongue to become dry, red and sore. People with bulimia may have chronic sore throat and small hemorrhages under the skin of the palate.
Frequent vomiting can erode your tooth enamel, especially on the tongue side of the upper front teeth. This sharply increases the risk for decay in these areas and can make these teeth sensitive to temperature. Severe erosion can lead to changes in your bite, or the way your upper and lower teeth come together. Your back teeth can be reduced in size and some teeth can even be lost eventually."
The earlier treatment is sought, the greater the chance of recovery. Treatment methods for bulimia include counseling, behavioral therapy, group therapy, family therapy, antidepressant medication, medical monitoring by a physician, and hospitalization in the case of physical complications.

“Most eating disorders are not about food but about self-esteem and self-perception. Therapy is most effective when it concentrates on the issues that cause the behavior, rather than on the behavior itself.”

For More Information:
Warning Signs of Bulimia
Laxative Abuse For Weight Loss
Diuretic Abuse For Weight Loss

*See sidebar menus for Self-Assessment Tests, Tools, Hotlines, Resources, and Recovery.



Nancy Ellyn said...

Your posts are always so informative. Sometime they bring me to tears. Your new poll really got to me. I remember, being a little girl and my mother making me have TAB at a birthday party! I wasn't even heavy! I was just bigger than my petite older sister. I've never been more than 40 pounds overweight (that was after pregnancy), and usually just 10 or 15 pounds higher than my personal ideal weight, but I swear, I might as well weigh 300lbs. That's how screwed up I am with body issues.

Nancy Ellyn said...

Wanted to add, that THANK GOD, I have never suffered from bulimia. But I sure can starve myself when I want to......I have, and sometimes I still do......

MrsMenopausal said...

{{{{Nancy Ellyn}}}}}
Sometimes it doesn't take more than an off handed comment to set us up for poor body image and even eating disorders.

I'm hoping more people are aware now and are becoming more aware of how powerful an influence they are on children and their views of themselves.

I don't think most parents were conscious of the negative messages they gave our generation with their concern and dieting suggestions.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

Sexy at any Size said...

Great Post there, and really we need to reinforce a more positive self concept among our children so that they learn to love themselves as they are. The message children need to grow up with is 'be healthy' not 'get thin'.

MrsMenopausal said...

Thank you for commenting, SAAS. I totally agree with you. It's so important that we teach our children self acceptance, that their self worth is not defined by weight and/or physical appearance.