Understanding Bulimia

Treatment for BulimiaBulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating and a lack of control over consumption, followed by behaviors that attempt to compensate for the binge, such as vomiting, fasting, excessive use of laxatives or excessive exercise. While low self-esteem and concerns about weight, shape and body image play major roles, there are many other contributing causes of bulimia. Often, people who struggle with bulimia have difficulty managing emotions in an appropriate and healthy way. Eating can be an emotional release so someone battling bulimia may binge and purge when feeling angry, depressed, stressed or anxious. People living with this disorder often feel tremendous guilt and shame around their binging and purging behaviors.

Common behavioral patterns include:

  • Fear of inability to stop eating voluntarily
  • Shoplifting and/or petty stealing of money to buy binge food
  • Secretive food foraging and hoarding
  • Social irregularities, alternating withdrawal with erratic need for social contact and approval
  • Possible drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Suicidal gestures or attempts, self-hatred and self-mutilation, feeling of self-disgust
The emotional characteristics include:

  • Preoccupation with appearance and “image,” overly concerned about body weight and size
  • Perfectionistic: high performance and achievement expectations, façade of normalcy
  • Low self-esteem, self-loathing, self-disgust and depression
  • May be promiscuous or confused about sexuality, masking the desire for acceptance/respect

Individuals who participate in dangerous bulimic behaviors put their health, and their very lives, at risk. The recurrent binge/purge cycle damages the digestive system and can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.

Medical complications associated with bulimic behavior include:

  • Potential heart arrhythmia and irregularities related to electrolyte imbalance
  • Swollen glands, puffiness around the face, and burst blood vessels in eyes
  • Edema (swelling due to retention of body fluids), possible impaired renal function
  • Abdominal pain, esophageal or gastric dilation or rupture, non-responsive bowel
  • Tooth decay and gum erosion from regurgitated stomach acids, enlarged salivary glands

Treating the Disease of Bulimia

Denial and resistance contribute to the gravity of bulimia, but the good news is that full recovery is possible for the majority of people struggling with eating disorders. At Center for Change, we give you the support and evidence-based treatment necessary to take back your life — body, mind and spirit.

Are you concerned that you or someone you love is struggling with bulimia? Take our online quiz to see if you are living a lifestyle that shows bulimic tendencies.