Understanding Bulimia, its Symptoms and Treatment
Bulimia nervosa, more commonly referred to as simply bulimia, is an eating disorder. Although it is not as well known as other eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia is much more common. Patients with bulimia first eat excessive amounts of foods. They then purge themselves, believing that they must rid their bodies of the extract food. Purging is often done by inducing vomiting. However, some bulimia patients use laxative to purge, or may exercise to an unhealthy point. Most bulimia patients are women, although some men, usually men who are gay, do develop bulimia as well.
Bulimia symptoms vary depending on the stage of the condition. Bulimia patients strive to be thin, but their rapid eating and purging often leads to a more normal weight, or drastic weight fluctuations.
In addition, the common vomiting can lead to a host of other symptoms. Teeth can wear down and become eroded due to the constant presence of stomach acid. Gastric reflux may become common. The unhealthy purging can lead to imbalances in the body, including electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. The esophagus can erode due to constant vomiting.
People with bulimia may also have small cuts or scabs on their hands, which occur when their teeth hit their hands when they are attempting to induce vomiting. People with bulimia are also often depressed and may show signs of low self esteem.
The causes of bulimia also vary from patient to patient. Over the course of many studies, it has been shown that bulimia is hereditary, and is much more common in people with a family history of eating disorders and alcoholic or otherwise addictive personalities. Bulimia is believed to be a mental disorder in which the patient simply cannot realize that they are harming their bodies. Instead, the pressure to be thin, whether real or imagined, drives them to harm themselves in order to attain what they consider to be correct.
Bulimia treatment usually involves intense counseling. Bulimia patients must learn to recognize, through psychotherapy and with the help and support of friends and family, that what they are doing is wrong and dangerous. Treatments similar to those used for alcoholics and drug addicts have also been shown to work well in helping a bulimic patient understand their problems. Often, anti-depressant medications are also prescribed, in order to attempt to balance the patient’s moods and urges.