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Bulimia is an eating disorder. It is characterized by uncontrolled episodes of overeating, called bingeing. This is followed by purging with methods such as vomiting or misuse of laxatives. Bingeing is eating much larger amounts of food than you would normally eat in a short period of time, usually less than 2 hours. You may feel like you can’t stop or control these episodes of binge eating.
The binge-purge cycles can happen from many times a day to several times a week.
Often, people with bulimia keep a normal or above normal body weight. This lets them hide their problem for years. Many people with bulimia don’t seek help until they reach the ages of 30 or 50. By this time, their eating behavior is deeply ingrained and harder to change.
There are 2 ways people with bulimia restrict calories:
These are the most common symptoms of bulimia:
Most people with eating disorders also share certain traits including:
If you have bulimia, you may binge to reduce stress and ease anxiety.
The symptoms of bulimia may look like other medical problems or mental health conditions. Always consult a health care provider for a diagnosis.
You likely keep your binging and purging secret. This is so family, friends, and health care providers won’t know about it. If you seek help from a health care professional for bulimia, he or she will want to gather a detailed history of your behaviors from you, your family, parents, and others. Sometimes, psychological testing is done.
Blood tests may be done to check overall health and nutritional status.
Early treatment can often prevent future problems. Bulimia, and the malnutrition that results, can affect nearly every organ system in the body. Bulimia can be deadly. If you suspect bulimia, consult a health care provider for more information.
Bulimia is usually treated with both individual therapy and family therapy. The focus is on changing your behavior and correcting any nutritional problems.
Therapy looks at the link between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The therapist will explore the patterns of thinking that lead to self –destructive actions and help change that thinking.
Medicine (usually anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medicines) may help if you are also anxious or depressed.
A health care provider and a nutritionist will be part of your care.
Your family can play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.
In some cases, a hospital stay may be needed to treat electrolyte problems.
Complications of bulimia include:
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