Bulimia – Symptoms and Causes of Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder. Someone with bulimia might binge on food and then vomit (also called purge) in a cycle of binging and purging. Binge eating refers to quickly eating large amounts of food over short periods of time. Purging involves forced vomiting, laxative use, excessive exercise, or fasting in an attempt to lose weight that might be gained from eating food or binging.

Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, is a disorder in the eating disorder spectrum. Bulimia is characterized by episodes of secretive excessive eating (bingeing) followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting (purging), abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise. Like anorexia, bulimia is a psychological disorder. It is another condition that goes beyond out-of-control dieting. The cycle of overeating and purging can quickly become an obsession similar to an addiction to drugs or other substances.

Symptoms of Bulimia

Signs of malnutrition or dehydration may be present including dry skin, changes in the hair and nails, swelling of the lower legs and feet, or loss of sensation in the hands or feet.

Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.

Despite the fear bulimics have of becoming fat, being underweight is not a characteristic warning sign of bulimia. In fact, people with bulimia are usually of normal weight or are even overweight. If a person binges and purges but is dramatically underweight, he or she most likely suffers from the purging type of anorexia, rather than bulimia.

Excessive exercising – Works out strenuously, especially after eating. Typical activities include high-intensity calorie burners such as running or aerobics.

Nonpurging bulimia: You use other methods to rid yourself of calories and prevent weight gain, such as fasting or overexercising, which is sometimes called exercise bulimia.

Causes of Bulimia

Experts agree that cultural factors are very important in the development of eating disorders. Modern society’s emphasis on health, in particular thinness, can greatly influence those who seek the acceptance of others.

Families: It is likely that bulimia runs in families. Many people with bulimia have sisters or mothers with bulimia. Parents who think looks are important, diet themselves, or judge their children’s bodies are more likely to have a child with bulimia.

Many more women than men have bulimia, and the disorder is most common in adolescent girls. The affected person is usually aware that her eating pattern is abnormal and may experience fear or guilt associated with the binge-purge episodes. Although the behavior is usually secretive, clues to this disorder include overactivity, peculiar eating habits or rituals, and frequent weighing.

Sociocultural: Modern Western culture generally cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin. Peer pressure may fuel this desire to be thin, particularly among young girls.

In certain neurological or medical conditions, there can be disturbed eating behavior, but the essential psychological feature of bulimia, the extreme concern with body shape and weight, is not present. For example, overeating is a common feature in depression, however, these individuals do not engage in inappropriate weight loss behaviors and do not exhibit the overconcern with body image and weight loss that is characteristic of the bulimic.