What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa can impact individuals of different cultures and ethnicities, shapes and sizes, identities and orientations, cognitive and physical abilities, and socioeconomic levels.
Individuals with bulimia nervosa often experience:
- Cycles of bingeing and purging
- Frequent trips to the bathroom during or after meals
- Restriction and/or fasting between bingeing and purging
- Preoccupation with how one’s body looks and feels
- Patterns of hiding or hoarding food or food wrappers
- Engaging in behaviors alone or in secret
- Withdrawal and disinterest in values driven activities, changes in mood, periods of isolation, impacts on focus and concentration
What is a binge?
Eating unusually large amounts of food over a short period of time (around 2 hours) AND feeling out of control or that one can’t stop eating.
What is purging?
Repeated engagement in behaviors in an attempt to lose weight/”undo” calories consumed. These behaviors can be in response to multiple types of feelings including guilt, shame, and embarrassment.
The most common is self-induced vomiting (could be with a finger, toothbrush, on one’s own or other object, or by inducing vomiting with ipecac).
- Excessive exercise
- Not using insulin as prescribed (withholding it or taking too much)
- Thyroid hormone misuse
As bingeing and purging behaviors increase in frequency and/or intensity, individuals may experience physical symptoms that impact their functioning. Often, the physical symptoms may be dependent upon the type of purging.
With self induced vomiting individuals may experience acid reflux, nausea, throat irritation, broken blood vessels in eyes, increased nosebleeds, blood in vomit, dental complaints including teeth sensitivity, staining or discoloration of teeth, enamel erosion, increased cavities, swollen cheek or jaw areas, calluses on the back of hands or knuckles, cracks in corners of mouth.
With misuse of diuretics or enemas individuals may have increased urination or diarrhea respectively.
With any form of purging individuals can develop dangerous and sometimes lethal electrolyte abnormalities, dehydration, and heart rhythm changes.