Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by binge-eating, often eating three or four times a normal amount. This is followed by self-induced vomiting or taking laxatives to try and avoid putting on weight. Anyone of any age can suffer from bulimia, but it is most common in young women aged between 15 and 25.
Although bulimia is on the increase, we know little about what causes it. What we do know is that problems start when food is used to control feelings. After bingeing you may feel some short-term emotional relief, but the feelings and distress often return. Bulimia treatment helps to bring longer-lasting relief and a solution to your feelings. Bulimia has been associated with:
- Low self-esteem
- Emotional distress - caused by events such as a death, starting work or sexual abuse
Research also suggests that your genes and your family's attitude towards food can make you more likely to suffer from bulimia.
What are the symptoms of bulimia nervosa?-
Not everyone will show the same symptoms, but the most common are:
- Binge-eating followed by making yourself sick or taking laxatives
- An obsession with food and calories
- Going to the toilet straight after meals to make yourself sick
- An overwhelming feeling of guilt after binge-eating
- Depression, and using drugs and alcohol to cope
Your close family or friends may not notice these symptoms, and because you don't dramatically lose weight, other people may assume you are feeling well and happy. Bulimia side effects, due to continuous bingeing, vomiting and taking laxatives can include:
- Problems with vital internal organs due to lack of essential minerals
- A ruptured stomach
- Bowel problems from laxative abuse
- Tooth enamel wearing away
- A painful throat and damaged vocal chords
- Swollen cheeks
- In severe cases, epileptic fits or death through heart failure
You may have had bulimia for several years and see it as part of your everyday life, but the sooner it is treated, the less damage it will do to your body. A person suffering from bulimia risks developing long term side effects the longer it is left untreated.
Getting your life back on track - the care and management of bulimia nervosa-
Bulimia needs specialist help to treat both the psychological causes and its physical effects. Contacting your GP is the easiest way to get help and further treatment. He or she may offer you counselling or dietary counselling, or refer you to a specialist for further assessment. This may lead to outpatient treatment or, if more serious, day or inpatient treatment.
Family and friends can also help through their support and care. It is particularly helpful for relatives to understand that your eating problems are your way of coping with emotional difficulties and that you may have mixed feelings about changing your eating pattern. If you're dangerously thin, you will need to gain weight with the help of a dietary plan designed to restore your physical health and a normal eating pattern.
How the Priory can help-
With a large network of eating disorder facilities across the UK, our experienced professionals are committed to offering bulimia help to individuals with a unique and varied approach. We provide an extensive range of therapy groups helping to provide you with the therapeutic treatment suited to your needs.
Therapies used to treat bulimia nervosa include dietary counselling, psychotherapy, family therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT has become more popular over the past few years and can reduce symptoms by identifying, challenging and changing the thinking patterns and beliefs that create negative feelings and eating-disorder behaviour such as bingeing and vomiting.
The type and length of treatment is dependent on the individual's circumstances and the severity of the condition. Some people are treated as outpatients, which means they come to the Priory for hourly sessions with their consultant, psychologist or therapist. Others require a more structured treatment approach which can include staying as an inpatient at one of the Priory hospitals for the duration of their treatment where they take part in the psychological group programme as well as regular sessions with their consultant.
We can offer you professional advice and treatment, suitable to your needs and personal experience. Eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa are treatable and over the years we have helped thousands of people like you to create the necessary changes, enabling them to challenge their eating disorder and move forward to lead fulfilling lives.