We offer eating disorders counselling at You Call We Listen, and have professional counsellors ready to take your call who specialise in bulimia counselling and anorexia counselling.
If you are unsure if you have an eating disorder or know you have but not sure what to do then speak to one of our professional eating disorders counsellors now, we are here to listen to you and guide you on the road to a happier life free from the chains of control an eating disorder brings.
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that falls into the psychological category. The illness can be life-threatening if left for weeks, months and even years. Many people who suffer from this illness have a fear of gaining weight and usually do something to get rid of food they have eaten, one such example would be exercising after every meal, or every day excessively. Some sufferers may even vomit after eating food to get rid of what they have just eaten. Sufferers are often insecure and may rely on food as their main source of comfort.
Sufferers from the illness will undergo a strict diet before binge-eating their comfort foods. They eat a large amount of food in a little amount of time. Such things can come about due to stress or depression. Many foods consumed are considered to be comfort foods, such as desserts, high-fat foods and chocolates. People with bulimia tend to have an abnormal or unrealistic fear of these foods due to their association with weight gain. Many sufferers will feel guilty at eating all of this unhealthy food, and as such, will exercise excessively or vomit up their food, in order to feel better. Purging can become addictive and is often used as a means of regaining control after giving in to food.
The purge and binge cycle
Bulimia Nervosa is usually associated with a large binge and purge cycle. This is the never-ending loop that sufferers will find themselves in. They will eat a load of comfort foods and then ‘purge’ themselves by excessive exercise or vomiting. The stricter your diet, the more likely it is that you will binge of fatty or comfort foods. As the tension, hunger and feelings of deprivation increase, so does the compulsion to eat, and therefore, the cycle repeats itself.
Many sufferers going through this cycle will try and eat forbidden foods, something that they have set an ‘off-limits’ mindset to. This can trigger the mind and make people binge-eat all of these foods, such as take-away or desserts. However, the relief and comfort this behaviour brings is short, and soon the guilt and self-loathing will start to creep in. Purging the food only makes the sufferer want to binge eat even more, and that’s why it’s such as harsh cycle, or loop.
Who gets bulimia?
Many sources such as Patient.co.uk and the NHS have seen that Bulimia Nervosa effects men and women throughout their lives, it can effect any age and any gender. Very young children are not likely to develop the illness. A high amount of cases has been seen within the 16-40 age group of Women. There is much evidence suggests around one in 100 women in the UK have bulimia at some stage in their life, and it most commonly starts around the age of 19-20 years of age.
Signs and symptoms of bulimia
Recognizing if someone is suffering from Bulimia Nervosa can be difficult, as sufferers do not show many outward symptoms and do not talk about it. Through this, the illness itself can be hidden for years by a sufferer. Due to this, the illness itself can only be detected and diagnosed if the individual shows several of the signs and symptoms that we will get into later.
Many sufferers will also have some extreme measures in order to keep their weight down, such as chewing gum, taking slimming pills or even smoking. These can effect the health of the sufferer in various degrees. People with bulimia are also likely to exercise and weigh themselves excessively, and may become obsessed with checking their body shape in mirrors and reflective surfaces – which can also apply to other eating disorders.
However, the number one symptom that a sufferer will do, is to hide their bingeing and purging habits from their friends and even their family. Hiding after a meal, visiting the bathroom after dinner or breakfast is the number one factor that sufferers will do. Isolation is also a common sign that someone has developed bulimia.
Physical symptoms of bulimia
- Frequent fluctuations in weight
- Blistering on the knuckles that can result from pushing fingers down the throat to induce vomiting
- Frail hair and nails
- Frequent stomach pains
- Puffy cheeks caused by repeated vomiting
- Discoloured teeth
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Difficulty sleeping
Psychological symptoms of bulimia
- Unhealthy obsession with food and eating
- Depression and anxiety
- Unrealistic views on body image and weight
- Impulsive behaviour
- Mood swings
- Lying and secrecy
- Feeling out of control.
Causes of bulimia
Like many illnesses, there isn’t one single cause of Bulimia Nervosa. There are many factors that can contribute to the development of the illness. Fearing of being overweight is one the of main reasons why people suffer from the illness. People who cannot manage their emotions often turn to food and binge-eating and this can lead to Bulimia Nervosa.
Pressure on body image
Society as a whole sees thing bodies as the ‘perfect’ body and this can sometimes lead people to Bulimia Nervosa as they try and achieve this perfect look. The illness itself begins with people being unhappy about the way the look, and their body shape. This is more common in women that in men. Many professions such as ballet dancers, gymnasts and face a great deal of pressure on body image.
Many people may have low self-esteem and this can contribute to the illness. Linking up with the pressures of the world, people don’t see themselves as attractive or ‘normal’ and therefore, don’t have any confidence or self-esteem. This can be triggered by a various amount of factors including: perfectionism, depression and childhood abuse.
History of trauma
Many people who have gone through a traumatic experience in their lives can have a stronger chance of developing the illness, as they use binge-eating and then purging as a way to cope with what they have experienced. Examples of such traumatic experiences include: people who have experienced abuse or trauma at some point in their lives or people who have grown up with parents who struggled with a psychological disorder.
Stress is a big one. Many situations we come across in life are stressful and that can lead to habits developing. One of the worst habits to develop is, of course, binge-eating. This can lead to people developing the illness and they end up in this cycle of eating and purging. Examples of these situations include: trouble at work or school, financial problems, other illnesses and family problems.
Mental health issues
Many people that suffer from Bulimia will have some kind of psychological problem, mainly depression or anxiety. Binge-eating is a way for people to cope with their situation, their depression or their thoughts. The cycle continues as they feel the same emotions over and over.
Effects of bulimia
Bulimia can have a great impact on a sufferer’s health, both physical and mental. There are many symptoms of Bulimia which range from physical changes and problems – like Pains and sores, to sever dehydration.
There are many effects to Bulimia. However, some of the more severe effects of bulimia include:
- Kidney failure
- Chronic irregular bowel movements
- Heart problems or irregular heartbeat
- Tooth and gum problems
- Inflammation of the esophagus as a result of forced vomiting
- Ruptured stomach
- Acid reflux or ulcers
- Chronic constipation due to laxative abuse
- Sore throat and hoarseness
- Problems in pregnancy
Treatment for bulimia
Similar to many other illnesses, the longer a person suffers from Bulimia, the worse it will get for them. It is very important to try and detect the disorder as early as possible as this gives the greatest chance of success in curing it. Recognizing that you or someone you know has Bulimia is the first step into the available treatments. It is possible to recover from the illness, but it can be a long and difficult process, so sufferers will need to have a genuine desire to get better.
Treatment for Bulimia involves a team of doctors, dieticians and mental health professionals – such as a counsellor, which are all able to provide a support network for sufferers of the illness. There are many counsellors that specialize in purely eating disorders and this can give you the help expertise available.
Many sessions for the treatment of Bulimia includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which can help sufferers change their attitude and thoughts on food and binge-eating, whilst also allowing them to deal with the emotional side of things as well.
You may also need the following:
- Medication, such as anti-depressants
- Family therapy
- Patient Educations.
- All of the above treatments are available to you. Remember, the first step is admitting to yourself that you have the illness, and going from there.