Bulimia (bulimia nervosa) is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. People with this condition binge-eat a lot of food in a short amount of time, and then purge soon after to get rid of the food and calories.
Purging can involve self-induced vomiting, taking diuretics or laxatives, obsessive exercising or fasting.
Who’s at Risk?
Although bulimia is relatively uncommon in men, it’s very common in teenage and young adult women, and around 50% of bulimics have or had anorexia.
A lot of bulimics suffer from severe depression, and drug and alcohol abuse. And unlike people with anorexia, a bulimic’s weight is usually average or slightly above average, and often fluctuates.
What are the Signs of Bulimia?
- Uncomfortable eating around other people, or eats large amounts of food on the spur of the moment and feels out of control and unable to stop eating
- A tendency to buy binge foods and gorge in secret, or can’t explain the disappearance of food at home
- Disappears to the bathroom after meals, and runs water to cover the sound of vomiting
- Teeth are discoloured from vomiting, and they might use a lot of mouthwash and breath mints
- Experiences mood swings, depression, loneliness, shame, and feelings of emptiness, and withdraws from friends.
- Doesn’t seem to gain an excessive amount of weight given the amount of food they eat
- Often exercises excessively
People battling with bulimia can often eat enormous amounts of food in one sitting – like a whole chicken, or several tubs of ice-cream, but they don’t like to keep food down. The two most common ways that bulimics purge is by vomiting up food, or taking a laxative.
How Does Bulimia Affect the Body?
Frequent binging stretches the stomach, which can cause it to rupture, and constant vomiting can irritate or even tear the lining of the throat. And using a lot of medication to prompt vomiting or empty the stomach can lead to a life-threatening loss of potassium that triggers irregular heartbeat or heart failure.