Bulimia - Information on a "secret" Disorder

By: Andrew C. Povel

Bulimia affects thousands of people in the world today. It is mainly seen in teenage girls though people of both genders and all ages may experience this eating disorder.

What are the symptoms?

Binging: Eating large amounts of food, immediately followed by purging
Purging: Self-induced vomiting
Laxative Use: This is done in an effort to keep the body "clean"
Fasting or Extreme restriction of food: This is usually followed by binging and purging.

What are the Signs to Look For?

This eating disorder can be difficult to recognize due to the secretive nature of the affliction. Many times it begins with an inordinate amount of attention to weight and appearance. A person who has bulimia may make frequent bathroom visits, most often immediately after eating. They may hide their disorder by vomiting in areas you may not suspect. According to Taylor E., who is a recovering bulimic, those suffering from the disorder will sometimes avoid the bathroom in order to keep their actions a secret. They don't necessarily exhibit significant weight loss, as with anorexia. They may cough and have chest pain because of damage done to the esophagus by frequent vomiting. They may complain of frequent stomach aches and diarrhea. He or she may have bad breath or constantly suck on breath mints. After a while, tooth enamel wears away from frequent contact with stomach acids. Menstruation may cease and the skin, hair, and nails become dry due to lack of nutrition, dehydration, and vitamin deficiencies.

What Causes A Person to Become Bulimic?

There are no exact causes for bulimia as far as we know right now. Their have been studies done that show predispositions caused by:

Genetics - Relatives often struggle with the same disorder
Serotonin - Studies suggest that many of those with bulimia also have altered levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that affects mood. Serotonin levels are associated with depression as well.
Societal Pressures - Sometimes the disorder begins with an effort to be thin.

How is Bulimia Treated?

It is recommended that a person with bulimia seek medical and psychological assistant immediately. People with bulimia, as opposed to those with anorexia, are more apt to admit they have a problem, especially when they are sick.

More often than not, patients are treated outside of the hospital or clinic. They receive regular counseling and are taught behavioral modifications to suppress the urge to purge. Antidepressants are often prescribed as those with bulimia have lower self esteem and usually exhibit the signs of clinical depression. Their family is encouraged to get involved with therapy and support.

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