What is Bulimia ?
Described and classified by British psychiatrist Gerald Russell in 1979, Bulimia comes from a Greek word meaning voracious hunger. Bulimia is a severe, life-threatening psychological eating disorder, described by the ingestion of an abnormally large amount of food in a short period of time, followed by an attempt to avoid gaining weight by purging what was consumed.
Bulimia is an eating disorder that is usually characterized by periods of binge eating or overeating, followed by some form of compensatory behavior. People with bulimia are afraid of gaining weight; however, that does not mean that all people with bulimia are underweight.
Some people with bulimia are overweight or obese and may try to purge to control their weight or avoid further weight gain. Bulimia is a serious mental illness that requires intensive treatment. Getting help for your bulimia gives you the best chance of overcoming this eating disorder.
People with bulimia go through periods of eating a lot of food in a very short time (binge eating) and then getting sick, using laxatives (medications to help with bowel movements) or exercising excessively, or a combination of these, to try to avoid gaining weight. Men and women of any age can get bulimia, but it is more common in young women and usually starts in their mid- to late teens.
Purging methods include forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, and extreme or prolonged periods of exercise. Often in these binge/purge episodes, a woman or man suffering from this disorder will experience a loss of control and engage in frantic efforts to undo these feelings.
Because he or she may have binge eating and purging episodes in secret, they can often hide their disorder from others for long periods of time. Those with bulimia often use these behaviors in an attempt to prevent weight gain, to establish a sense of control and/or as a means of coping with difficult circumstances or situations. Bulimia is an eating disorder and a mental health condition.
Symptoms of Bulimia
- Eating very large amounts of food in a short time, often in an uncontrolled manner; this is called binge eating
- Vomiting, using laxatives or doing an extreme amount of exercise after a binge to avoid getting fat; this is called purging
- Fear of getting fat
- Be very critical of your weight and body shape
- Mood swings, for example, feeling very tense or anxious
These symptoms may not be easy to detect in another person because bulimia can cause people to behave in a very secretive manner.
Frequent cycles of binging and purging put a lot of stress on your body. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, your heart is not designed to withstand the use of laxatives or daily vomiting. This type of stress can cause arrhythmia, palpitations, heart attacks or death. Repeated vomiting erodes tooth enamel and causes yellow teeth, mouth tenderness, and rapid decay. For women, bulimia sometimes causes fertility problems. Repeated binges stretch the stomach and increase the amount of food you can eat; however, the human body has a limit.
In rare cases, binge eating tears the stomach lining and causes stomach acid to leak into the rest of the body, often with fatal results. You can develop chronic, painful stomach problems as a result of bulimia, such as chronic gastric reflux. Inflammation of the esophagus is also typical. Bulimia can cause gastroparesis, a partial paralysis of the stomach muscles. It is important to note that chronic health problems do not go away once you recover from bulimia. For example, you may suffer from gastroparesis years after your last cycle of binging and purging.
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