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What is Bulimia?

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What is Bulimia?

Bulimia Defined

What is Bulimia?Bulimia Nervosa or “Bulimia” is a serious health condition, mental illness, and problem that can take a toll on your body. People with bulimia will eat large quantities of food (binging) and then try to overcompensate by vomiting, fasting, exercising excessively, taking laxatives or diuretics. During the “binge” stage of bulimia, people feel completely out of control and worry about what they’ve done. The second stage is where they try to “fix” the problem using extreme measures as listed above. Early intervention along with treatment offers the best outcome when it comes to bulimia.

People suffering from bulimia can go through stages where the binge/purge cycles tend to dominate and take over daily life. Constant vomiting can cause some major health concerns with our teeth and oral health. The use of laxatives can cause damage to our hearts and digestive system. People with bulimia also suffer from tiredness, constipation, bloating, irregular periods, abdominal pain and swelling of the hands and feet.

It can be very challenging to diagnose someone with bulimia because they often are at a “normal” weight and don’t always admit that they are suffering from the symptoms associated with it. There is generally a change in mood or other behaviors before physical changes when it comes to bulimia which makes it difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms of Bulimia

If you suffer from bulimia you are probably thinking about your weight and shape frequently to the point that it affects your life. You may judge yourself in a harsh way, think negatively about yourself and it is extremely hard to overcome.

Some symptoms include:

  • Severe fear of gaining weight
  • Obsessed with body weight and shape
  • Loss of control with eating, binging or what you are eating
  • Using extreme measures such as vomiting or exercise to control your weight
  • Using diuretics, laxatives, enemas or other weight-loss strategies to stay thin
  • Using supplements or other medications to lose weight
  • Mood swings or depression
  • Sore throat from vomiting
  • Heartburn, indigestion or bloating
  • Irregular periods
  • Risking calories or fasting between binging sessions

How severe the case of bulimia is depended on how often purging is happening; a severe case is usually once a week for up to 3 months.

Health Issues Associated with Bulimia include:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Dental problems such as cavities or tooth sensitivity
  • Dehydration
  • Heart attack
  • Lower libido
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Ruptures of stomach or esophagus
  • Higher chance of suicidal behavior


Today we are going to discuss another serious eating disorder: Bulimia Nervosa.

Eating disorder terms get thrown around a lot, whether socially or in the media and the gravity of how dangerous they are can get lost. I’m here to talk about what bulimia is and what it isn’t.

The first part of bulimia is the binge. This is eating a large quantity of food in a short period of time. Now this could look different from person to person so what really matters to me is how each person defines their own binge. A lot of people struggling with bulimia say it’s almost an out-of-body experience. It’s like turning on a light switch. Maybe not realizing you’re binging until it’s over and the wrappers and receipts are there to show you what has happened. During the binge the person feels completely out of control and afterwards left with that gut wrenching thought of “Oh my god what have I done?”. Up until this point it’s pretty similar to what we have discussed in the binge eating disorder video but this is where it changes.

The second part of bulimia following the binge and the out-of-control behavior is something to make up for the bench to compensate from what has happened. This can also look different from person to person as well. Self induced vomiting laxatives, diuretic stimulants such as crystal meth or cocaine are a few ways people purge the calories that were consumed during a binge. Other behaviors can include excessive exercise, starving, cleansing, and fasting. In this world it gets really confusing where extreme dieting fasting and excessive exercise is not only the norm, but it’s encouraged. Someone struggling with bulimia is highly focused on their body shape and weight which often drives those eating disorder behaviors. This doesn’t mean that everyone on a diet or working out a lot has bulimia. Sometimes people use eating disorder statements loosely. For instance a friend going to the bathroom after eating; “Oh she must have bulimia”

No that’s not entirely true at all. That’s an unqualified and uneducated guess if you will. It’s important to seek help if you’re experiencing any of these binge purge behaviors. Address the disorder head on and find peace with food and your body.

Risk Factors

There is no known cause for bulimia but there are some commonalities among people who suffer from it and risk factors that may make it more likely to develop. Research suggests that a combination of personality traits, emotions, biological or environmental factors, and thinking patterns might be responsible. Often people who have extreme dissatisfaction with their bodies and how they look are more likely to develop an eating disorder. Many people with bulimia suffer from low-self esteem and worry about becoming overweight.

Bulimia is usually diagnosed in late childhood or early adulthood and generally affects females more often than males. People with bulimia will perform the behaviors in secret for fear that people will know they have a problem. They also will have the urge to binge which causes discomfort, therefore deciding to purge to get “relief” from the binge they’ve had. They are usually within the normal weight range for their height and age but are highly dissatisfied with how they look and their appearance.

Diagnosing Bulimia

In order to be diagnosed with bulimia, you need to meet a series of criteria that includes:

  1. Excessive binge eating episodes that include eating “a larger amount of food more than necessary for one person” during a period of time. There is usually a loss of control when it comes to consuming food.
  2. Unhealthy behaviors to avoid gaining weight or compensating for the binge episode such as vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or excessive dieting.
  3. Binge eating or other behaviors associated happen frequently and at least once per week for 3 months.
  4. The person’s appearance including weight and body shape have a large influence on how they feel about themselves.

The American Psychiatric Association describes these symptoms and associates them with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-V) requirements.

Treatment for Bulimia

It can be challenging to treat bulimia and often comes with many obstacles for each individual person. The recommended initial treatment for bulimia includes psychotherapy along with nutritional therapy, usually cognitive therapy.


One of the most common forms of treatment and most researched is psychotherapy. This type of therapy can often be the most expensive and take the most significant amount of time, especially if other mental health disorders are present such as sexual abuse, depression, relationship problems or substance abuse.

Psychotherapy not only treats the disease but also the underlying mental health issues associated with it. The goal is to figure out the problem, why it’s happening and develop a plan to treat it.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

This type of therapy will work on identifying and changing the dysfunctional attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that may cause a person to have destructive behavior such as an eating disorder.

The first step to this therapy is identifying the underlying irrational thoughts that trigger the disorder and helping with strategies to change the behavior associated such as promoting healthy eating habits and lifestyles.


Practicing self-care at all times, even when involved in bulimia treatment in Los Angeles, can be the best thing an individual can do for him or herself. Self-care can include doing anything that better improves an individual’s recovery and wellbeing. Consider the following:

  • Practicing how to say “no” when something does not fit in with one’s recovery
  • Getting comfortable with imperfections
  • Writing in a journal
  • Being compassionate to oneself and one’s needs
  • Accepting the path of recovery rather than fighting it

Start Your Recovery Today in Los Angeles

Bulimia is a serious condition that can be fatal if not appropriately treated. If you or someone you love is struggling with bulimia, do not waste one more minute. You can recover from this disorder by attending Breathe Life Healing Center’s eating disorder treatment in Los Angeles.

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