- Note: This article does not provide medical advice. If you have a medical problem, you should seek expert help.
Bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder more commonly known as bulimia, is a psychological condition in which the subject engages in recurrent binge eating followed by intentionally doing one or more of the following in order to compensate for the intake of the food and prevent weight gain:
- inappropriate use of laxatives, enemas, diuretics or other medication
- excessive exercising
A person is classified as bulimic when he or she feels incapable of controlling the urge to binge, even during the binge itself, when he or she consumes a larger amount of food than a person would normally consume at one sitting, and when such behavior occurs at least twice per week for three months.
Bulimia is a pathology that involves body image and the desperate desire to appear thin. The majority of bulimic patients are young females from 10 to 25 years old, although the disorder can occur in people of all ages and both sexes.
Bulimia is often less about food, and more to do with deep psychological issues and profound feelings of lack of control. Binge/purge episodes can be severe, sometimes involving rapid and out of control feeding that stops when the sufferers "are interrupted by another person...or [when] their stomach hurts from over extension...This cycle may be repeated several times a week or, in serious cases, several times a day."1 Sufferers can often "see the destructive eating pattern as a way of gaining control over their lives".2
Some anorectics may demonstrate bulimic behaviours in their illness: binge-eating and purging themselves of food on a regular or infrequent basis at certain times during the course of their disease. Alternatively, some individuals might switch from having anorexia to having bulimia. The mortality rate for anorectics who practice bulimic behaviors is twice that of anorectics who do not.3
The frequency of bulimic cycles will vary from person to person. Some will suffer from an episode every few months whilst others who are more severely ill, may binge and purge several times a day. Some people may vomit automatically after they have eaten any food. Others will eat socially but may be bulimic in private. Many people do not regard their illness as a problem, whilst others despise and fear the vicious and uncontrollable cycle they are in. 4
There can be a popular assumption that eating disorders are ‘female diseases’, but the illnesses do not discriminate based on gender, and males can also suffer from them: “even if only 5% of sufferers are male, hundreds of thousands of young men are affected…Studies have been conducted within the homosexual subculture, and have also focussed on males who suffer from anorexia and bulimia. These point to a direct connection between gender identity conflict and eating disorder in males but not in females."5 This does not indicate that only homosexual males suffer from eating disorders, but there is “ a tendency for eating disorders in males to go unrecognised or undiagnosed, due to reluctance among males to seek treatment for these stereotypically female conditions." 5
Consequences of Eating Disorders
See also: 6
- Electrolyte imbalance, heart arrhythmia, heart failure
- Teeth erosion and cavities
- Irritation and tears in the throat, esophagus and stomach
- Laxative dependence
- Emetic Toxicity
Eating disorders have one of the highest death rates of all mental illnesses. The Eating Disorders Association (UK) estimates a 10% mortality rate.7 An 18% mortality rate has been suggested for Anorexia Nervosa.8 In addition to the risk of suicide, “death can occur after severe bingeing in bulimia nervosa as well”.9 For perspective, these death rates are higher than those of some forms of cancer.
At risk groups
Risk factors for bulimia are similar to those of other eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa:
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04