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About Bulimia

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Bulimia nervosa- commonly referred to as bulimia - is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. Those with bulimia will go through episodes of “binge eating”, where they are unable to control the amount of food they eat, followed by “purging”. Purging can take a variety of forms, including laxative use, self-induced vomiting, enemas, diuretics, or excessive exercise.

Bulimia can manifest in a diverse set of physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms, including:

  • Excessive eating
  • Self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise after eating
  • Abuse of medications such as diuretics, laxatives, and weight loss supplements
  • Fasting
  • Preoccupation with body image and eating habits
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Feeling out of control
  • Social withdrawal
  • Heartburn and indigestion
  • Facial swelling
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Dental problems (such as enamel erosion and bleeding gums)
  • Stomach ulcers

Bulimia may affect men or women, although women are treated for the condition more commonly. The disorder is most prevalent in teenagers and young adults, although it has been diagnosed in children and older adults. There is no specific cause of bulimia, but common risk factors include:

- Weight loss. Individuals who diet or were overweight as a child are more likely to experience bulimia.

- Family history. People with a first-degree relative (a parent or sibling, for instance) who has had an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder themselves.

- Emotional triggers. People who have been bullied for their weight, people who have undergone a traumatic event, or those who deal with low self-esteem are at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder.

Bulimia, if left untreated, can lead to extremely serious medical complications - even death. Due to the cycle of binging and purging, individuals with bulimia can seriously dehydrate themselves, damage their internal organs (including the heart and kidneys), and erode the enamel of their teeth. If you or someone you know is dealing with the symptoms of bulimia, get help right away. The first step in treatment is getting help. The negative thinking associated with bulimia may result in depression and suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Treatment Options

Treatment for bulimia is often done with a team of medical and mental health providers, as well as dietitians or nutritionists. The goal of bulimia treatment is to address underlying mental health concerns causing the disorder while restoring nutrient levels in the body to a healthy balance. During your appointment, talk to your health care provider about the treatment plan that is best for you or the person you are seeking treatment for.

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