WHAT IS BULIMIA?
The word bulimia comes from the Greek words “boulimos” and “haima,” meaning to have a ravenous hunger. People with this disorder suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) related to food, weight, and body image. This disorder is a potentially life-threatening condition that is connected to a cycle of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours. The action that follows binge eating is known as purging, a behaviour that consists of throwing up to avoid gaining weight.
THE BINGE EATING PHASE
This phase is characterised by binge eating. In other words, eating unusually large amounts of food in a very short period of time. This part of the process is typically done in secrecy and accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame; more often than not, there are other underlying mental health conditions like anxiety and depression present.
Those who suffer from binge eating disorders don’t always have bulimia, it’s only those who have both phases, binge eating followed by purging.
THE PURGING PHASE
The purging phase is engaging in regurgitating the food to rid the body of the excess calories consumed during the binge. There are other ways of purging the body, such as misusing laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or execessive excercise, althought the most commonnly found method is through self-induced vomiting.
Types of Bulimia
This condition is primarily categorised into two types based on the methods used to compensate for binge eating. Understanding these types is crucial for identifying the specific behaviours associated with this eating disorder.
The Purging Type of bulimia is the most commonly recognised form. As explained above, individuals with this type engage in self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas after binging. This behaviour is driven by the desire to eliminate consumed food from the body to prevent weight gain.
- Regular self-induced vomiting.
- Frequent use of laxatives or diuretics.
- The cycle of binge eating is followed by purging.
In the Non-Purging Type of bulimia, individuals use other methods to compensate for binge eating, which does not involve purging. These methods include excessive exercise or fasting.
- Engaging in rigorous exercise regimes to burn off calories from a binge.
- Fasting or following strict diets to counteract the effects of a binge.
- Avoidance of traditional purging methods like vomiting or laxative use.
BULIMIA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Although both bulimia types vary from one another, they both have some commonalities regarding signs and symptoms that are associated with this particular eating disorder. Here are some of the characteristics they both share:
- Episodes of eating substantial amounts of food in a short period.
- Feeling a lack of control over eating during binge episodes.
- Preoccupation with body image and fear of weight gain.
- Secrecy surrounding eating habits and feelings of shame or guilt after bingeing.
This complex mental health disorder has some telltale signs that should be recognised for early intervention and effective treatment. Here, we explain some of the most common signs and symptoms to be aware of if you feel someone close to you is going through or suffering from an eating disorder:
- Frequent Weight Fluctuations: Unusual changes in weight due to alternating periods of bingeing and purging.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: Problems such as stomach cramps, acid reflux, and irregular bowel movements.
- Dental Problems: Tooth decay, enamel erosion, and gum disease caused by frequent vomiting.
- Sore Throat and Hoarseness: Regular vomiting can cause throat irritation.
- Swollen Salivary Glands: Often visible as swelling around the jaw and neck.
- Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance: Can lead to serious health issues like kidney failure.
- Secretive Eating Habits: Hiding food or eating in secret due to feelings of shame.
- Frequent Visits to the Bathroom After Meals: Often to purge after binging.
- Excessive Exercise: Conduct rigorous physical activity to ‘burn off’ calories.
- Strict Dieting or Fasting: Alternating between overeating and strict food control.
- Misuse of Laxatives, Diuretics, or Enemas: As a method of purging.
Emotional and Psychological Signs
- Preoccupation with Body Image and Weight: An intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image.
- Mood Swings and Emotional Instability: Feelings of guilt, shame, or depression after binging.
- Low Self-Esteem: Often linked to body dissatisfaction.
- Impulsive Behavior: May extend beyond eating habits to other areas of life.
Social and Interpersonal Signs
- Withdrawal from Social Activities: Especially those involving food.
- Strained Relationships: Due to secretive behaviour and mood swings.
- Performance Issues at Work or School: As a result of the mental and physical strain of the disorder.
If you think a loved one is experiencing or showing any symptoms, it’s important to talk to them about their relationship with food and offer them help through specialised treatment plans.
EATING DISORDER TREATMENT PROGRAMMES FOR BULIMIA
At PROMIS, we provide private treatment with an experienced multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. Our specified feeding or eating disorder treatment options are available for anyone affected by eating disorders – we offer a range of therapies and a multitude of helpful resources to help combat these disorders and get you back to living a healthy and fulfilling life.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY
This is a cornerstone of bulimia treatment. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviours associated with it, contributing effectively toward eating disorder recovery. It helps patients identify triggers for binge eating and purging and develop healthier coping mechanisms. CBT also addresses issues such as relating to the way they see their bodies, self-esteem, and relationship with food, which are often at the core of bulimic behaviours.
Group therapy sessions provide a supportive environment for sharing experiences and strategies. It’s beneficial in normalising the struggles faced by those with bulimia and offers a sense of community and understanding. Group sessions often include skill-building activities, discussions, and shared learning experiences that foster recovery and personal growth for people with eating disorders.
This type of therapy involves family members in the treatment process. It is beneficial for younger patients or those whose family dynamics play a significant role in their eating disorder. Family therapy aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and educate family members about bulimia. It also helps families to support their loved ones in recovery, creating a healthier home environment that discourages disordered eating behaviours.
NUTRITIONAL AND DIET MANAGEMENT
Essential to the recovery process, this aspect of treatment involves working with dietitians or nutritionists to establish healthy eating patterns. Nutritional counselling educates patients about balanced diets, helps in meal planning, and aims to rectify any misconceptions about food and weight. The goal is to help individuals develop a positive relationship with food and understand the importance of nutrition for overall health.
Inpatient treatment for eating disorders is designed to treat bulimia and create a clear path towards recovery. Our health professionals and therapists have over 25 years of treating patients in the field of eating disorders with proven success rates. Private healthcare can make all the difference when approaching these conditions, and opting for specialist eating disorder services like PROMIS guarantees health and care excellence throughout the process.
GET HELP WITH PROMIS TREATMENT CENTRE
If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, you should reach out and seek help. Bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder often require residential treatment from eating disorders specialists, not only to aid in acquiring a healthy relationship with food but to gain an understanding of the condition and promote both physical and emotional well-being.
Successful treatment for bulimia at PROMIS has provided thousands of people with hope and a new beginning; get in touch with us today, take the first step to the recovery journey and discover the new beginning that awaits on the horizon.