Bulimia Nervosa- A Vicious Circle of Binge and Purge
Tell me if you are thinking of someone or even yourself when you are reading this.
- Every morning when you gaze at yourself in the mirror, you find yourself gaining weight more than the previous day.
- You compare yourself with actresses in magazines and models on social media.
- You have the fear of becoming fat as you have the perception that “the skinnier, the better”.
- You eat more than you should. If someone visits your room they will find the wrappers of junk foods everywhere.
Nara is no different. She spends all her money to buy junk foods. Whenever she is out, she goes to the best fast food restaurant and eats until her stomach hurts. When she goes shopping, she goes out shopping for food to binge eat later on.
At home, she indulges herself in bingeing. Afterward, to make up for the bingeing she either purges or starts an intense workout to burn those calories.
If this is relatable to you or you know someone who can relate to this, they could be having a form of eating disorder particularly known as Bulimia Nervosa.
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What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Described and classified by the British Psychiatrist Gerald Russell in 1979, Bulimia Nervosa comes from a Greek word meaning ravenous hunger.
Bulimia Nervosa is a mental health condition. It affects about 1.6% of adolescent and young women and 0.5% of men of comparable age. The lifetime prevalence of Bulimia Nervosa in the United States is 1.5% in women and 0.5% in men i.e. approximately 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males. It affects people in their younger age and in adolescence. 30-70% of those with Bulimia Nervosa also have an addictive disorder. It is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating. The person eats large amounts of high-calorie foods in a short time basically every two hours. The individual may consume up to 3,000 calories or even more.
Related Article: Multifaceted Addiction – Beyond Drugs and Alcohol
After bingeing, the person feels bloated, unattractive, guilty, ashamed, and regretful. And it is followed by some form of inappropriate behavior such as purging (self-induced vomiting, laxative or diuretic abuse), fasting, or exercise. The bingeing and purging can severely harm parts of the body involved in eating and digesting food. Excessive purging can cause dehydration that affects the body’s electrolytes which can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure, and even death.
Besides the physical risks, they may even develop mental health problems like depression, anxiety, stress disorders, and even suicidal thoughts; as they also have the burden of keeping their bingeing /purging a secret.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Bulimia Nervosa is caused by a number of different factors that influence a person’s eating behaviors and predisposition towards the disorder. The exact causes of bulimia nervosa are still unknown but it is believed that multiple factors contribute to the development of this eating disorder. It might include genetic, environmental, psychological, and cultural influences.
Some of the main causes include:
- History of abuse or trauma
- Negative body image
- Peer pressure
- Societal expectations
- Poor self-esteem
- Professions or activities that focus on appearance / performance
A person suffering from Bulimia Nervosa may have the following symptoms:
- Rapid consumption of an amount of food definitely larger than normal people would eat
- Consumption of sweet, high-fat foods (eg. ice cream, cake) during binge episodes
- Excessive exercising
- Dental problems
- Sore throat
- Depression or mood swings
- Indigestion and bloating
- Significant fluctuation in weight
- Irregular periods
- Self-induced vomiting
- Smelling like vomit
Is Bulimia Nervosa considered a mental illness?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day.” Since there is hardly any doubt that it affects a person’s mental, emotional, psychological, social and physical well-being, it is indeed a mental illness. Bulimia Nervosa is not just about eating habits, rather it is a psychiatric disorder that affects the mind, body, and soul. The person binges and purges in private. They become so concerned about their weight and body shape, it ultimately causes high levels of stress and anxiety and cause hindrances in performing daily activities in a normal manner.
Celebrities and Bulimia Nervosa
American singer, songwriter and actress, Demi Lovato opened up about her experience with Bulimia Nervosa. She once said in an interview, “I lived fast and I was going to die young. I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” She was being treated for Bulimia Nervosa in 2010 and she is currently focusing on fitness in order to take care of her overall physical and mental health.
Kesha Rose Sebert, an American singer, songwriter, rapper, and actress revealed her battle with Bulimia Nervosa in an interview with the magazine Rolling Stone. “I really just thought I wasn’t supposed to eat food,” she said, “And then if I ever did, I felt very ashamed, and I would make myself throw up…” As of now, she says she’s in a better place than she was a few years ago.
Princess Diana also suffered from Bulimia Nervosa. Andrew Morton’s book published in 1992, Diana: Her True Story, speaks of Princess Diana’s “secret disease”. She believed that Bulimia Nervosa was only a symptom, and that the true problem was the emptiness she felt in her marriage and in order to cope with it she started bingeing.
- If you are suffering from it, please share it with your friends or family members or your relatives or anyone you are comfortable with
- If you see anyone getting skinnier day by day, talk to them as they might be going through Bulimia Nervosa
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most successful outpatient treatment approach for bulimia. It is time-limited and the person will go into treatment for a specific period of time with specific goals in mind
- A form of psychotherapy known as family therapy is also used in the treatment of Bulimia Nervosa and it involves the concerned person as well as their family
- Antidepressants are also suggested by mental health professionals in order to reduce the symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa.
- If symptoms are severe or there is a risk of suicide, the person may need to stay under observation in hospital
Although trying to stay in shape is a good idea, trying to achieve the impossible “ideal body type” defined by the media is not. Bingeing and purging to get that slim figure, washboard abs, etc., can be deteriorating to your health, both physical and mental.
Stay alert and watch out for the symptoms or any warning signs in yourself or someone you know, because Bulimia Nervosa is not a phase, it is a life-threatening disorder.