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What is Bulimia?

March 1, 2024

What Is Bulimia and How Can You Cope With It?

Bulimia, also known as bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating, followed by compensatory behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of laxatives. This disorder affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, and can have serious consequences on one’s physical and mental health if left untreated. However, with the right treatment and coping strategies, it is possible to recover from bulimia and improve one’s quality of life. In this article, we will discuss what bulimia is, its causes, symptoms, and diagnosis, and most importantly, how to cope with it through therapy and self-help techniques.

Understanding Bulimia: What Is It?

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging, fasting, or excessive exercise. During a binge episode, a person with bulimia may eat an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time, feeling out of control and unable to stop eating. This is usually followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and fear of weight gain, which may trigger the compensatory behaviours. These behaviours are intended to undo the effects of binge eating and to prevent weight gain, but they are often ineffective and can lead to a vicious cycle of bingeing and purging.

Causes and Risk Factors of Bulimia

The causes of bulimia are complex and multifactorial, and may include genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Some of the risk factors for bulimia may include:

  • Genetics and family history of eating disorders
  • Neurobiological factors such as abnormal levels of neurotransmitters and hormones
  • Low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction
  • Perfectionism and high achievement orientation
  • Trauma, abuse, or neglect
  • Cultural and societal pressures to be thin
  • Peer pressure and social influence
  • Dieting and weight loss attempts

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

Bulimia can have physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms that may vary from person to person. Some of the common signs and symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Binge eating episodes, often in secret or when feeling distressed
  • Purging behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse, or excessive exercise
  • Fear of gaining weight or body dissatisfaction
  • Dental problems and erosion of tooth enamel due to stomach acid
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, constipation, or acid reflux
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Mood swings, anxiety, and depression
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Obsessive thoughts about food, weight, and body image

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bulimia

Bulimia can be diagnosed by a healthcare provider based on a thorough assessment of the symptoms and medical history. Treatment for bulimia usually involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and nutritional support. The goal of treatment is to address the underlying causes of bulimia, to improve physical and mental health and to

Bulimia, also known as bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder that affects both men and women of all ages, but is most common in women in their late teens or early adulthood. It is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by purging, where the person attempts to get rid of the calories they consumed by vomiting, using laxatives, diuretics, or engaging in excessive exercise. This behaviour is often accompanied by feelings of shame, guilt, and disgust, and can lead to serious physical and mental health problems if left untreated.

In this article, we will discuss what bulimia is, its causes, symptoms, and the most effective ways to cope with it, with a focus on therapy as a key component of treatment.

What causes bulimia?

The exact causes of bulimia are not fully understood, but a combination of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors is believed to play a role in its development. Some of the common risk factors include:

  • Genetics: Studies have shown that there may be a genetic component to bulimia, as it often runs in families.
  • Psychological factors: People with bulimia often have low self-esteem, perfectionism, and struggle with feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress.
  • Cultural factors: Our society often promotes thinness and places a lot of pressure on people to have a certain body shape or size, which can lead to disordered eating patterns.
  • Trauma or abuse: People who have experienced trauma or abuse, especially during childhood, may be at a higher risk of developing bulimia as a coping mechanism.

What are the symptoms of bulimia?

The symptoms of bulimia can vary from person to person, but some of the common signs to look out for include:

  • Binge eating episodes where the person eats large amounts of food in a short period of time, even when not hungry.
  • Purging behaviours such as vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise after a binge episode.
  • Obsessive thoughts about food, weight, or body shape.
  • Avoidance of social situations that involve food, or eating alone to hide the behaviour.
  • Physical symptoms such as dental problems, gastrointestinal issues, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances.

How can you cope with bulimia?

Bulimia can be a difficult disorder to overcome, but with the right treatment and support, it is possible to recover and lead a fulfilling life. Here are some of the most effective ways to cope with bulimia:

Seek professional help

Therapy is an essential component of bulimia treatment, as it can help you identify the root causes of your disorder, develop healthier coping strategies, and improve your self-esteem and body image. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are two of the most commonly used therapies for bulimia, as they have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms and preventing relapse.

Develop a support system

Having a supportive network of friends, family, or peers who understand what you are going through can make a huge difference in your recovery. Consider joining a support group, reaching out to a therapist, or talking to your loved ones about your struggles.

Practice self-care

Self-care is crucial in managing bulimia symptoms and promoting overall well-being. This can include things like getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness or meditation, engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy, and taking care of your physical health through exercise and healthy eating habits.

Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs

Bulimia often stems from negative thoughts and beliefs about oneself, body image, and food.

If you or someone you know is suffering with Bulimia, our exceptional therapists can help. Take our 7 minute intake assessment and get matched to the best therapist who can support you in what you are going through.