Bulimia Nervosa, like Anorexia, is indiscriminate when it comes to gender, race, age or economic background. Sufferers may be older than those with anorexia, and many suffer symptoms of both conditions.
An intense fear of weight gain also permeates bulimia, but its main characteristics are periods of binge eating – where the sufferer will eat huge amounts of food, many thousands of calories, quickly and without control. These binges are then followed by some panic driven attempt to compensate for all the food eaten, in order to prevent weight gain. The sufferer may use a combination of self induced vomiting or laxative/diuretic abuse in order to 'make up' for binges – this is known as purging. Other 'techniques' such as extreme exercise, periods of starvation may also be undertaken.
The body weights of those with the condition may vary hugely, depending on the frequency of the binges and the relative effects of the bingeing and purging cycle.
While these eating patterns exist, the sufferer may experience feelings of self-hatred, disgust, low self-esteem and many suffer with depression. Outwardly, the impression given may be one of confidence, competence and sociability. Even when sufferers are showing signs of other distress, such as depression, the bulimia may be kept a secret.
What is happening?
Those who develop bulimia have described 'an aching void inside', which is a hunger they try to fill with food. The desperate need to fill this 'emptiness' and ease the pain may trigger a binge. As the food is consumed, it then becomes something disgusting and painful in itself, and the sufferer becomes equally desperate to expel it. Vomiting brings some kind of relief, and some sufferers talk of a feeling of purity, which comes with this emptiness, once the food has gone. A temporary high may be experienced, and then the feelings of self-disgust resurface.
Possible Signs & Symptoms
- Weight may fluctuate, or stay the same
- Sore throat
- Feeling out of control during a binge
- Constantly thinking about food
- Mood swings
- Excessive exercise
- A need for secrecy and deception
- Laxative abuse
- Irregular, or loss of periods
- Tooth decay
- Puffy face, due to swollen glands