Bulimia is an eating disorder, where overeating is followed by self-induced vomiting or the use of laxatives to try to avoid weight gain. It is potentially a life-threatening condition.
Treatment for bulimia involves the use of medicines (e.g. antidepressants) and talk therapy (psychotherapy). A dietitian can design an eating plan to help you with healthy eating habits and to provide good nutrition.
Bulimia can cause serious complications that can can lead to long-term health problems, include dehydration leading to kidney problems, tooth decay due to recurrent vomiting, heart problems, menstruation irregularities, depression and anxiety.
The symptoms of bulimia are physical and behavioural. They include:
- An obsession with your body shape and weight (fear of gaining weight).
- Repeatedly overeating followed by self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives or excessive exercising in an effort to prevent weight gain.
- Excessive dieting or fasting.
- Abusing medication to lose weight.
- Mood swings and depression.
- Low self-esteem and feelings of guilt about eating.
The cause of bulimia remains unknown. However, many experts think it can be inherited or caused by environmental factors, substance abuse, anxiety, and mood disorders.
Girls and women are more at risk of developing bulimia than men and boys. Things that put you at risk include:
- Having a family member who suffers from bulimia.
- Suffering from mental and emotional problems.
- Substance abuse is closely linked with bulimia.
- Having and obsession with your body shape and weight and with dieting and fasting.
If you notice that you have symptoms of bulimia seek medical advice immediately. Bulimia is a very serious condition that can lead to various complications and even death. You may feel shame and embarrassment and you may feel the need to hide what you do. Talk to someone you can confide in about you problems and perhaps ask them to accompany you to visit your healthcare provider.
There is no way to prevent bulimia but seeking help early can help reduce the severity of the illness on health and wellbeing.
- Find happiness in your uniqueness or difference.
- Challenge views and notions that beauty is attached to a body type. Reinforce a healthy body image by speaking kindly to yourself and creating safe spaces for others.
- Develop the habit of eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping a physically active routine that supports your body's health.
- If you notice yourself feeling down about your looks, you should quickly get help addressing those negative thoughts.
- Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step to tackling bulimia. Speak with someone you trust and who can support you.
- Don't skip therapy sessions and try to stick to your meal plans.
- Educate yourself about your condition to motivate yourself to stick with your treatment plan.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about taking vitamin and mineral supplements.
- Stay in touch with family members and friends who can help you.
- Resist the urge to weigh yourself or check yourself in the mirror.
- Do not over-exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about appropriate exercise.
- Your healthcare provider will recommend talk therapy, nutritional support and medications.
- They will work with you to address harmful beliefs about food and your body, and will try to help you modify your eating habits.
- If you are likely to benefit from using antidepressants, your healthcare provider will recommend the most suitable one for you.
- Your healthcare provider may ask you to attend a class where you will be taught about different food types and decide what's best for you.
Most people with bulimia may relapse after a while. Realize that this may be a life-long struggle. Consider joining a support groups of people who are having similar experiences to help you stay on track.
If you are a parent of someone suffering from bulimia, do not blame yourself or your child for their eating disorder. Rather, ask your child how you may help, offer a listening ear, and eat regular meals as a family.