Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge-eating is followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge, such as purging (e.g., vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise.
Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week. Similar to anorexia, people with bulimia often have coexisting psychological illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and/or substance abuse problems. Many physical conditions result from the purging aspect of the illness, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and oral and tooth-related problems.
Seven symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa:
Preoccupation with food
Binge eating, usually in secret
Vomiting after bingeing
Abuse of laxatives, diuretics, diet pills
Denial of hunger or drugs to induce vomiting
Swollen salivary glands
Broken blood vessels in the eyes
Bulimia Nervosa symptoms explained
1. Binge Eating
All of us will overeat now and then; doing so is pretty normal behavior. For instance at Thanksgiving, we all sit down at the dinner table and probably overindulge. Binge eating in bulimia has certain characteristics that make it much different.
A binge is defined by several characteristics, including consuming a larger amount of food than most people would eat during the same time period (potentially thousands of calories) within a short period of time (typically 2 hours or less). It is also characterized by a feeling that one CANNOT STOP or CONTROL one’s eating, accompanied by physical or emotional distress.
Following a binge, an individual may feel consumed with fear, guilt or shame and the need to try to undo his/her behavior. Purging is a way to compensate for binging. Purge behaviors come in many forms: vomiting, taking laxatives or water pills, starving or excessive exercise.
It is important to recognize that purging rarely works well for weight loss. Laxatives and diuretics make a person lose water not weight. Even vomiting seems to be ineffective; it has been reported that 50-75% of the calories have already been absorbed.
3. Bingeing and Purging occurs more than 2 x a week for at least 3 months
4.Body Image: Self evaluation and self esteem is overly influenced by weight and shape
Many people in our culture are concerned with how they look, what they weigh or how to change the body parts they don’t like. In bulimia, there is an intense connection between self respect and the way the body looks. We can be great in a lot of things, but if our thighs are too big, well then, we are just not good enough.
What about weight in bulimia nervosa?
Weight can be normal, underweight or overweight. Unlike anorexics who can be often identified by their low weight, it is more difficult to identify bulimics. Weight can also dramatically shift, and large swings might be an indicator that someone is developing an eating disorder.