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Bulimia Nervosa differs greatly from anorexia nervosa. It can have different causes, symptoms, and side effects and must be treated differently.

An Overview

Just like anorexia nervosa bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that should be considered extremely serious. It is a mental health problem or condition that is potentially life threatening. Victims of the condition engage ln binge-eating, implying that they can eat substantial amounts of food in one go, and then attempt to rid the calories ingested using ways considered unhealthy. The victims do not choose to do this, but are conditioned by mental illness, and so they need urgent medical assistance.

The victims will attempt to cope with emotional imbalances and stress by trying to adopt different strategies, including changing their behaviour. They fear calories and food and so they succumb to binge-purge cycles caused by hunger and stress, or by victims as they try to sort out their emotional issues. The victims may not eat huge amount of foods for them to purge, since it has been observed that they can purge even after insignificant amounts of food. They also purge often after meals.

After binge eating, patients suffering from bulimia nervosa will use different methods to help rid the calories they have previously ingested. They may use laxatives, forceful vomiting, diuretics, or enemas, if they help them remove the excess calories from their bodies. This type of bulimia is referred to as ‘purging bulimia’.

There is also ‘non-purging bulimia’, where victims involve themselves in excessive or strict dieting and exercising to stop them from gaining extra weight.

These strategies can harm the victim and can have long lasting impacts on the patient’s mental and physical health. People suffering from the condition have low self-confidence and may develop a negative body image about themselves. Their body size, their shape, and weight are issues of great concern. However, people suffering from bulimia are usually within a healthy weight bracket. Their weight could also be below or above average. The condition is difficult to recognize since it does not show itself explicitly, as is the case in anorexia nervosa. The patients are also known to hide the binge-purge behaviour because it makes them feel guilty. This makes it difficult for anyone to recognise victims of the disorder. It is important to understand that it is difficult to help people suffering from the bulimia, since they will not seek help or support because they suffer from low self-esteem and are ashamed of the things they do.

Sufferers will experience abnormal mood swings and feel anxious and tense. The binging and purging behaviour takes control of their day to day life and causes them problems with how they relate and could affect their social interactions. They may opt to detach themselves from the rest of society and may avoid participating in social events and gatherings.

Usually, unlike with anorexia, bulimia occurs later in life. Young people and children do not often

suffer from the disorder, but symptoms may sometimes be seen in some of them. Normally, the condition will affect people in their late teenage years and is more prevalent in females than in males. Recently, it was observed that the number of boys and men suffering from bulimia nervosa is gradually increasing. In Britain, about 1.6 million people suffer from at least one form of eating disorders and only 25% of the victims are males. It is further suggested that 8% of women suffer from this problem at some point in their life. These conditions are prevalent in women between 16 - 40 years. However, this disorder may occur any time, but the condition will normally start at ages 18/19 years.

No one can explain what definitively causes bulimia, but there are many things that are believed to cause the problem.

- First, the condition is attributed to the victim’s fear of gaining any weight. Also, there are complex emotions believed to contribute to the problem.

- Negative image is thought to be among the main causes of the condition. People with a very low opinion about themselves, and who believe that they can regain their self-worth by losing their weight, are likely to suffer from the problem.

- People suffering from depression will often try to cope with emotional stress by binge eating, after which they discover they have eaten more calories than they should or than they intended, which necessitates that they find a way of getting rid of the extra calories. Purging, however, does not rid them from the depression they may be facing, and the cycle may continue and become a habit.

- In some cases, people may develop the condition because of having undergone traumatic experiences at some point of their life. These experiences included, death, divorce, or anything else that significantly changes the victim's normal life, such as moving out or getting married, which can cause anxiety and stress and lead to the development of the condition.

- Also, individuals who have suffered from physical illnesses, who have been abused sexually, grew up in difficult environment, and those who have family issues, are likely to suffer from the condition.

- Mental problems such as obsessive compulsive, personality, and anxiety disorders can also cause the problem to develop.

- The culture of our society and self-image issues can also lead to bulimia.

- Hormonal changes and puberty can also lead to the disorder in young people, since they make an individual more conscious of their appearances.

- Causes of the condition in men differ with the causes of the same condition in women. In men, activities such as athletics, bodybuilding, horse racing, and dancing are believed to be the main causes of the condition. In the recent times, men are increasingly becoming aware of their appearances and are at a risk of developing the condition.

- Lastly, bulimia may also be caused by genetic factors.

Treating bulimia can only be successful if people around the patient realise that the victim is suffering from the disorder, which can be hard to do. The term refers to the hunger of an ox, caused by nervous reasons. The sufferer of the disorder will binge-eat substantial amounts of food and become guilty because of their actions. These victims then purge quickly after eating to reduce the possibility of gaining unnecessary weight.


Often, the victims will resort to purging to eliminate the food consumed. This is normally how they respond to binge eating. Normally, after binge eating, the person will feel physically bloated, uncomfortable, and unattractive. They might feel guilty because of the binging behaviour and will often feel hatred towards themselves. The fear of gaining weight is often what drives them to the purging act. The fear makes them use various methods, including laxatives and other aids, to induce vomiting and purging. They may also use other methods that are less common, such as over exercising, taking diet pills, starvation, and ingesting illegal drugs, like amphetamines, or strict dieting. Bulimia patients are often quite unstable, emotionally.

They can suffer from several issues, such as anxiety, depression, and stress. This can lead to relationship problems, feeling awkward in social situations, and feeling lonely. They feel isolated and very reluctant to start new relationships. The victims suffer from mood swings, which can cause severe depression. Given that the patients do not feel positive about themselves, they engage in binge eating acts, which make them feel more guilt and shame about their behaviour. This results in further purging and the cycle continues. The guilt forces them observe strict dieting procedures and could lead to the creation of specific eating rules to guide them. When they are unable to observe the rules, they end up feeling bad.

Emotional and Physical Effects of Bulimia

The sufferer’s brain is preoccupied with thoughts of eating and they spend most of the time thinking about food. The victims can easily abuse substances, because they are likely to use illegal substances and drugs to counter emotional instability and, in an attempt, to lose weight.

-Those suffering from bulimia often exhibit behaviours, courtesy of mental illness and low self-esteem.

- The victims frequently experience increased levels of stress and suffer from increased emotional problems, as they struggle to hide purging and eating habits from their friends.

- They become more irritable, which increases mood swings.

- The victims repeatedly think about things they can do to help them manage and control their habit.

- They also spend most of their time thinking about food.

- This makes the emotional cost of the problem immeasurable.

- Bulimia affects the stomach and the throat, physically.

- Self-induced purging and vomiting causes the victim to suffer from a swollen and sore throat. The vomit contains an acid that erodes the enamel and increases gum diseases and tooth sensitivity, causing tooth decay.

- Normally, the victim's cheeks will become puvy and their jaw will become swollen because their salivary glands have been inflated.

- The acid found in vomit may also tear and inflame the oesophagus. It causes internal bleeding and leads to vomiting blood.

- The victim may also be forced to put their fingers in the throat to purge. This causes the skin on the victim's hands fingers to scar.

- Purging can also cause the victim to experience stomach aches, heartburn, and acid reflux.

- When diuretic or laxatives are used regularly, they cause problems in the bowel movement when the victim stops using them. Also, incorrect usage of diuretics can damage the intestines and kidneys and cause constipation, bloating, or diarrhoea. Strained bowel movement and constipation are likely to cause haemorrhoids.

- When purging is frequent, it dehydrates the body and leads to weak muscles, fatigue, and dry skin.

- When the amount of magnesium, sodium, and potassium in one’s body decreases, it brings about imbalances in the electrolytes. This may negatively affect the heart, leading to heart failure.

- The condition may cause anaemia, weak pulse, and reduced blood pressure

- It becomes difficult to conceive a child, as the ovaries do not release eggs.

- If a pregnant woman continues bingeing it may cause other problems, such as stillbirth,

birth defects, beast-feeding problems, and gestational diabetes. Using laxatives when pregnant can also harm the foetus.

Long Term Effects

- The body of an individual suffering from bulimia may experience imbalances, especially when it comes to the minerals needed to keep 0ne’s body healthy.

- It can also lead to the swelling of the salivary glands. If prolonged, bulimia damages the oesophagus, bowels, stomach, and even the teeth.

- It also increases heart related risks and could negatively affect other internal body organs.

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Bulimia Nervosa