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What is Bulimia Nervosa?

bullimia nervosa


What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia Nervosa is a serious eating disorder characterised by binge eating and self induced vomiting. A person suffering from this condition may be normal weight and appear to be happy and sociable, this makes the condition difficult to detect. Anyone can suffer from Bulimia but it usually affects perfectionists and emotionally sensitive individuals. Bulimia is not primarily about food. It is about control and dealing with negative feelings.

Bulimics have poor coping techniques and tend to hide their feelings. It is commonly seen as a female disease but in recent years more men are being diagnosed with it. The Eating Disorder Association of Ireland, Bodywhys said there has been a 67 per cent increase in the number of men being treated for an eating disorder in the last five years.
Physical signs and symptoms:
Dry skin and hair
Blotchy skin and pale appearance
Blood shot eyes
Abnormal blood count
Sore throat
Feeling cold
Bleeding gums and tooth decay
Swollen salivary glands
Irregular menstrual cycle
Brittle bones/osteoporosis
Irregular heart beat
Changes in weight
Signs of Bulimia
Obsessed with food, calories and weight
Regular binges
Being sick after meals
Disappearing to the toilet after eating
Spending long periods of time in the bathroom
Empty wrappers under the bed
Secret hoarding of food
Abuse of laxatives or diuretics
Changes in weight
Excessive exercising
Substance abuse
Self harm
Psychological signs of Bulimia
Anxiety and panic attacks
Constantly checking appearance in the mirror
Insomnia or over sleeping
Moods swings
Low self esteem
Grace, 23
“During my final year in college I felt under tremendous pressure to do well in my exams. I was devastated after failing one of my exams and I thought well maybe if I lose some weight I will feel a bit better. I started dieting but I would get so hungry that I would ultimately binge. Afterwards I felt so guilty that I started making myself sick and taking laxatives. I lost control very quickly and my life became a constant nightmare about food and weight. My weight was never low enough and if I gained a pound I freaked out and exercised for hours at a time. I looked and felt awful.

My eyes were bloodshot, and my skin was blotchy. I was constantly cold and dizzy. Even when I was physically weak and had chest pains I couldn’t stop myself. I was totally addicted to food and losing weight. All my money was spent on food. I was a prisoner of my own making and I didn’t know how to free myself. After collapsing one day my doctor admitted me to hospital. I was put on a heart monitor as my potassium levels were dangerously low and I was in danger of having a heart attack. When I was physically strong enough I was transferred to an eating disorder unit. The programme was very strict but I’m grateful I did it because I am well today.”
Treatments for Bulimia
Cognitive behavioral therapy
CBT has proven to be a very effective method for treating bulimia. It helps to change the person’s negative thinking about themselves and their appearance. The person learns to realize what triggers them to binge and purge.
The GP
It is important for a bulimic to talk to their GP and get themselves checked out physically. The GP may refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist. GP’s are more understanding in recent years regarding eating disorders.

Hospitalisation may be vital if the person is in medical danger or at suicidal risk.
Support Groups
Support groups are helpful for bulimics to talk about their feelings and to feel understood by other people who are suffering from the same condition as themselves.
It can help the person to feel less isolated. Other members of the group can help to support the person by suggesting tips that have worked for them. Bodywhys, Eating Disorder’s Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous are helpful support groups for bulimics.
Bodywhys is a voluntary organisation which receives some funding from the Health Service Executive. Doctors and Psychiatrists often refer bulimics to Bodywhys to help to support them in a group setting with their disordered eating.
Eating Disorders Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous follow the same 12 step programme as Alcoholics Anonymous. The only difference being the word ‘alcohol’ is substituted for the word ‘food’.
Some of the guidelines for OA and EDA are:
Eat when hungry, stop when moderately full. Consistent nutrition is essential for recovery. Recovery is about feelings, not food, but we can’t reason or build trust when bingeing, purging or starving.
Get basic needs met first. If hungry, eat. If angry, find a safe outlet. If lonely, reach out. If tired, sleep. If ashamed, talk about it.
Be an adult. This takes training and practice!
Ask others for input and make your own decisions.
When anxious, get physical, get outside, pray. Then deal with the problem head-on.
Get open with others. Honesty restores integrity.
Develop willingness to look at things differently.
Approaching the person with bulimia
If you are going to approach a person suffering from this condition it is important that you listen to them and are not judgemental.
The person is usually very ashamed of their condition and they may deny that they have a problem so be patient with them.
People can and have recovered from eating disorders. It takes time, patience and effort to recover. Through time you can learn to like yourself again and become a happy, healthy well balanced person.

One Response

  1. Julia Kaye says:

    Bulimia takes away your happiness and self-esteem. It can control your life and ruin relationships. I suffered from bulimia but managed my way out of the eating disorder. Read my personal encounter with bulimia at . I also offer useful facts about bulimia to help people understand this specific eating disorder.

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