Bulimia nervosa is both a mental health condition and an eating disorder. It can be experienced by anyone of any age although it is ten times more common in women than in men. The average age of a person suffering from bulimia is 18. People who suffer from bulimia try to lose or control their weight by binge eating and then either using laxatives or purging (making themselves sick).
The two most common bulimia symptoms are binge eating and purging. However there are a number of other signs to look out for if you suspect someone may be suffering from bulimia nervosa including:
• An obsessive attitude towards weight and food
• Episodes of over eating followed by episodes of starvation
• Anxiety and depression
• Disappearing after eating (usually to purge)
• Spending lots of money on food
There are a number of bulimia nervosa treatment options but the first step is for the sufferer to recognise the disease and genuinely want to get better. If they can manage to do this the treatment for bulimia nervosa includes:
• Cognitive behavioural therapy – this is a psychological treatment for bulimia nervosa and involves the sufferer speaking to a therapist about their feelings and food. The therapist may also encourage the bulimia nervosa sufferer to keep a food diary in order to uncover when the temptation to purge is at its strongest.
• Interpersonal therapy – this form of bulimia treatment again involves speaking to a therapist but instead of concentrating on food, interpersonal therapy focuses on the sufferers personal relationships. The aim of interpersonal therapy is to encourage the sufferer to form a supportive relationship with someone and take their focus away from food.
• Hypnosis – it may be surprising but hypnosis is a very successful form of bulimia treatment. It works by influencing the subconscious mind of the bulimia sufferer.
• Nutrition education – this will usually be given by a dietician, and involves educating the patient about healthy eating to try and instil healthy eating habits and encourage them to get back to a healthy weight.
• Hospital treatment – this is usually a last resort treatment for bulimia nervosa and will only happen if the sufferer is putting their life at risk or if other mental disorders accompany bulimia such as self harm.
• Medication – antidepressants such as Prozac are also often prescribed as a form of bulimia nervosa treatment. These can help to lower anxiety levels and to treat mental disorders which accompany the disease.
Bulimia Nervosa Effects
People who are suffering from bulimia nervosa are putting their health and lives at risk on a daily basis. Bulimics who do not get treatment are at risk of kidney failure, severe dehydration, stomach ulcers, a ruptured stomach and broken blood vessels amongst others. In the most serious of cases the bulimia nervosa effects can involve a loss of menstrual periods and being unable to have children in later life.
If you or someone you know is exhibiting bulimia symptoms, it is vitally important to encourage them to get help. Try and set a good example by eating healthily around them and offer compassion and support. Don’t be patronising or insulting as negativity will only lead to further problems. It is up to the sufferer to want to get treatment and unfortunately, until they are willing, there is nothing else that can be done unless their life is at risk.