A few mental health conditions have a tangible effect, like eating disorders. Take bulimia nervosa or bulimia. This is an eating disorder in which people binge on foods and then try to undo the results of this binge eating.
Bulimia is a severe eating disorder with potentially life-threatening consequences, leading to severe physical and psychological issues if left untreated. This blog post will discuss this eating disorder and its causes, effects, symptoms and treatment options.
What is bulimia nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by binge eating followed by attempts to purge the food eaten. Purging may include vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, compulsive exercise or fasting. Bulimia nervosa typically begins in adolescence or young adulthood, affecting females more than males.
The cause of bulimia nervosa is unknown. But it is believed to be a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. Bulimia nervosa can have severe physical and emotional consequences, and the condition can even be fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms of bulimia nervosa
The symptoms of bulimia nervosa are evident in extreme cases. People with bulimia nervosa often binge eat, i.e., quickly eating large amounts of food. They may feel like they can’t control their desire to consume food. Afterwards, they purge. Purging means they eliminate the food eaten by vomiting, using laxatives, or other methods.
Here are some symptoms of bulimia:
- Eating large quantities of food in a short amount of time
- Feeling like you can’t control your eating habits
- Purging after consuming food by either vomiting or using medicines such as laxatives
- Using diet pills or diuretics to lose weight
- Exercising excessively to lose weight
- Having an extreme fear of gaining weight or becoming obese.
Causes of bulimia nervosa
There are many possible causes of bulimia nervosa. In most cases, there is likely no single cause. Instead, it is thought that a combination of factors may play a role in developing this eating disorder. Some of the potential causes of bulimia nervosa include:
• Family history – People with a family member who has had an eating disorder may be more likely to develop one themselves.
• Genetic factors – Some studies suggest that specific genes may make people more prone to developing an eating disorder.
• Psychological factors – People with low self-esteem or perfectionists may be more likely to develop bulimia nervosa.
• Social factors – The societal pressure to be thin may contribute to the development of the eating disorders like bulimia nervosa.
Effects of bulimia nervosa
Here are some of the most extreme effects of Bulimia Nervosa:
- Dehydration – Due to constant purging, one can lose a lot of bodily fluids, including vital electrolytes. If this pattern continues along with the use of diuretics, dehydration can be fatal.
- Heart palpitations- This eating disorder can lead to irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmia.
- Low Blood Pressure – Bulimia nervosa can lead to a rapid drop in blood pressure, which can lead to fainting.
- Ruptured oesophagus – Constant purging of fluids can cause significant tears to appear on the oesophagus, leading to Mallory-Weiss syndrome or Boerhaave syndrome. In both cases, there is severe damage in the oesophagus, which needs emergency care.
- Pancreatitis – Forceful purging can cause inflammation in the pancreas.
- Hormonal imbalance – In some cases, it isn’t uncommon to see irregular periods and fertility issues among those with this condition. These imbalances can eventually make it difficult to conceive and can even complicate pregnancy if conception does occur.
Diagnosis of bulimia nervosa
There is no one test or physical exam that can diagnose bulimia nervosa. The diagnosis is usually made based on a psychological evaluation and the patient’s medical history.
The psychological evaluation may include questions about your eating habits, body image and mood. The doctor may also ask about your weight history and if you have ever tried to lose weight in an unhealthy way.
Your medical history will be considered to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as another eating disorder called anorexia nervosa or a medical condition. Blood tests may also be done to check for kidney problems or monitor electrolyte levels.
If you are diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, you will likely be referred to a mental health professional for treatment, which may include psychotherapy, medication and nutrition counselling.
Treatment of bulimia nervosa
There are many ways to treat bulimia nervosa. The most effective approach depends on the individual. Medication might work for some. For others, therapy is a good solution. Ideally, a combination of both works best.
Many types of medications are effective in treating bulimia nervosa. They include antidepressants and mood stabilisers. Antidepressants are the most commonly used type of medication for bulimia nervosa. They can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and they can also help lessen the urge to binge and purge. Anti-anxiety drugs can also help reduce stress and allow people to cope with stressful situations related to food or body image.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most common therapy used to treat bulimia nervosa. CBT focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviours contributing to the eating disorder. It can help people learn how to cope with stressful situations without turning to food. Other types of therapy may be helpful, too. They include interpersonal therapy (IPT) and family therapy. IPT focuses on relationships and communication patterns. On the other hand, family therapy helps family members identify and address any underlying issues contributing to the eating disorder.
In a nutshell, bulimia nervosa is a severe eating disorder that can have devastating effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with bulimia, it’s vital to seek professional help as soon as possible. With proper treatment, people with bulimia can recover and go on to lead happy and healthy lives. To seek assistance in handling eating disorders, contact us at United We Care. A licensed therapist will help you get your life back on track!