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Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by cycles of bingeing and purging. Bingeing is the act of consuming large amounts of food in a short time period. Purging, either by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives, is designed to “undo” the effects of binge eating.

Adolescent girls and young adult women account for around 80 percent of those with bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, although this eating disorder can affect anyone of any sex, age, race or cultural background. Most people with bulimia have an average body weight, and most recognize that their behaviors may be dangerous to their health.

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

While bulimia is often associated with depression, low self-esteem and a poor body image, it isn’t always about food or body weight, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Some people binge and purge as the result of stress or trauma, usually in an attempt to feel more in control of their lives. Most people feel out of control while they’re bingeing and feel they’ve regained control upon purging.

Warning signs that someone you love may have bulimia include:

  • Self-esteem that’s closely related to body image
  • Large amounts of food disappearing in a short amount of time
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting or laxative wrappers in the trash
  • Excessive exercising
  • Unexplained swelling of the cheeks or jaws
  • Calluses on the knuckles and backs of hands from inducing vomiting
  • Discolored teeth from stomach acids repeatedly coming into contact with the enamel
  • Unhealthy attitudes or other self-destructive behaviors surrounding weight loss

Health Effects of Bulimia

The recurring bingeing and purging behaviors associated with bulimia can damage the digestive system and cause electrolyte and chemical imbalances that can adversely affect the body’s organs, including leading to irregular heartbeats and heart failure.

Frequent vomiting may cause inflammation or rupturing of the esophagus, and laxative abuse often leads to chronic constipation and irregular bowel movements. Additionally, bulimia is often associated with symptoms of depression, and the risk of death from suicide and medical complications is considerably higher among those with bulimia and other eating disorders.

Treating Bulimia

Psychotherapy, antidepressant medications and nutrition education are the most effective treatments for bulimia.

A treatment program that specializes in eating disorders will ensure that treatment is a collaborative effort among medical providers, mental health professionals and dietitians that addresses the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the condition.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, helps to identify and change the unhealthy thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that typically underlie bulimia. Various other types of therapies may be used. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may be used to help you develop skills and strategies for coping with stress and other contributing issues. Interpersonal therapy can address problems in close relationships, improve communication and develop problem-solving skills. Family therapy helps restore function to the family system and address triggers present at home.

Even if depression doesn’t co-occur with the bulimia, a physician may prescribe fluoxetine (Prozac), an anti-depressant that’s approved by the FDA to treat this condition.

A dietitian will help design an eating plan that will promote good nutrition and healthy eating habits. If you’re overweight, you may be put on a weight loss program that’s medically supervised.

There is Hope

Whether bulimia is the result of low self-esteem, stress or trauma, a high quality, comprehensive treatment program that takes a holistic approach to bulimia treatment can help you regain control over your life and your body. You’ll address the issues underlying your condition, and doing so will lead to a healthier body and mind and a higher quality of life.

Give us a call or come visit our Inpatient Treatment Center In Los Angles California

All About Eating Disorders, Part 2: Bulimia
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