Bulimia is a common eating disorder that is marked by binge eating and subsequent excessive obsession over prevention of weight gain by means of purging (taking diet pills, laxatives, or vomiting) or exercising or fasting. Many individuals who suffer from bulimia will starve themselves for days before another binge eating session while others may binge and purge multiple times throughout the course of a day. Various mental, emotional and physical complications and side effects can be seen as a result of bulimia.
Symptoms of Bulimia
Bulimia is marked by many different physical, mental and behavioral symptoms including obsessive attitudes toward eating and the types of foods that are eaten or obsessing about weight. Some of the most common symptoms that are easily noticed by family and friends of individuals who suffer from bulimia include disappearing food, skipped meals, embarrassment to eat around others or excessive use of mouthwash, breath mints or gums.
Many individuals who have bulimia will only eat very small portions of food at regular meals but will later binge on all sorts of food items. Friends or family of bulimic individuals may notice that food just seems to “disappear” from the house or that the individual with bulimia cannot explain where certain foods go. Many bulimic individuals will also wear large clothing in order to hide how skinny they really are from friends and family.
Medical signs of bulimia include poor oral health such as bleeding gums or tooth enamel erosion, dry, cracked lips and swollen saliva glands. Excessive vomiting can cause dehydration, callused skin on the fingers from forced vomiting and metabolic acidosis. Although these signs of bulimia may not be noticed by friends and family members they are often easily noticed by a doctor or a dentist.
Many people with bulimia will eat large amounts of high-calorie foods in a secret place. These binges will ultimately result in feelings of self-disgust which will lead to purging to expel or compensate for the over eating. Purging makes the bulimic individual feel better about the situation and can bring on a sense of relief.
Treatment for Bulimia
Treatment for bulimia is similar to the treatment for other eating disorders such as anorexia. In most cases, people with bulimia do not need to be hospitalized unless their binging and purging cycles have led to anorexia or if drugs are necessary to treat withdrawal from the purging. Another common factor associated with bulimia that sometimes leads hospitalization is depression.
Bulimia treatment is usually a combination of support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, nutritional therapy and sometimes drugs such as antidepressants. Support groups are helpful for individuals who suffer from mild bulimia or who have not been suffering from the condition for a prolonged period of time. Most support groups for bulimia are best for treating individuals whose bulimia has not resulted in additional health conditions or is not provoked by other mental or health conditions.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a method of psychotherapy that focuses on changing behaviors that cause or impact a condition such as bulimia. Many eating disorders can be successfully treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy. In fact, this type of therapy is the preferred method of treatment for bulimia when individuals do not respond to other methods of treatment such as support groups.
In severe cases of bulimia, drugs can be used to alter the mood, change the attitudes and even preven withdrawals that may occur as a result of bulimia treatment. Antidepressants that are known as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat bulimia. This type of treatment is likely the most beneficial and effective at for individuals who suffer from bulimia.
Like most eating disorders, bulimia is not easily treated. Treatment for bulimia is a lifelong affair and the possibility of the behavior coming back is always a reality, even many years after the individual seems to be “cured”. For this reason, many patients have an unrealistic attitude and carry unrealistic expectations about bulimia treatment. It is important to note that it is very common for people with bulimia to relapse and that the best way to overcome relapse is to just keep moving forward. It’s best not to fret over a relapse and there is no cause for despair.
Bulimia treatment is a painful process that requires very hard work by the individual in order to get “well.” Support is very beneficial as with other eating disorder treatments and it is recommended that friends and family members take part in the treatment process. Finally, many bulimia patients will endure a number of different treatments and therapies before seeing noticeable results for the treatment of bulimia. Being open to new ideas and changes is very important to the success or failure of the bulimia treatment.