The services we provide here at Addiction Helper go beyond just substance abuse and behavioural addictions. We also offer free advice and treatment referrals to clients suffering from eating disorders like bulimia. Interestingly enough, patients with eating disorders suffer from many of the same underlying issues commonly associated with substance addictions.
Are you visiting our website because you are concerned that you or a loved one may be dealing with bulimia? If so, there is no need to continue worrying and wondering. By contacting us on our 24-hour helpline, you will instantly have access to the kinds of information you need to make an informed decision. If you do need treatment for yourself or loved one, we can refer you to a private rehab clinic, support group, counsellor, or another service provider.
Basics of Bulimia
Known clinically as bulimia nervosa, bulimia is a severe eating disorder similar to anorexia in some ways but decidedly different in others. It is similar in that the bulimia sufferer is obsessed with body image. It is different in that a person who has bulimia combines excessive avoidance of weight gain with the practice of binge eating.
Just like anorexia, bulimia disproportionately affects women; the condition is found most often in young women in their late teens or early 20s. Having said that, males can also suffer from the condition.
Bulimia is curious in that it combines a body image obsession with binge eating. The two seem to be irreconcilable, but that’s not the case. For example, a clinical diagnosis of bulimia is categorised according to how the sufferer compensates for binge eating. There are two avenues:
Forced Purging – Because the bulimic binge eats, something must be done to compensate so that weight is not gained. The person who forces purging will either induce vomiting or use excessive amounts of laxatives or diuretics.
Non-Purging – The non-purging bulimic still binge-eats but compensates for it by undergoing regular fasts or engaging in excessive volumes of exercise. It is not uncommon for a non-purging bulimic to be as obsessed about exercise as she/he is about maintaining the ‘ideal’ body weight.
Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia
Professionals are able to diagnose bulimia thanks to some very definite signs and symptoms. Things may not be so easy for the non-professional. To make this more understandable, we have divided the signs and symptoms into two categories: those to look for in yourself and those you might see in someone else.
The signs and symptoms to look for in your life include:
- a preoccupation with your body size and shape
- excessive fear of gaining weight
- excessive fear that you cannot control your eating habits
- a tendency to binge eat rather than eating normal meals and snacking
- routinely eating to the point of pain or discomfort
- forcing yourself to vomit or engaging in excessive exercise after eating
- using laxatives, diuretics or enemas after eating
- excessive use of diet supplements or herbal products for weight loss
- restricting caloric intake beyond what is medically reasonable for weight loss.
The signs and symptoms to look for in someone else include:
- obsession with being fat; includes regular complaints and worries
- a distorted and obsessive view of body image
- repeated binge eating; this includes foods a person would have previously avoided
- unwillingness to eat in front of others or public places
- frequent trips to the bathroom after eating
- heartburn, broken blood vessels under the eyes
- tooth decay, gum disease (from routine forced vomiting).
For the purging bulimic, the danger is exponentially worse. Not only does bulimia rob the body of valuable nutrients, but the forced purging can also cause significant physical damage. For example, routine forced vomiting can cause stomach ruptures, oesophageal ruptures and sores, severe dehydration, and other problems. Long-term bulimia can eventually lead to death through starvation, heart attack, dehydration, and a number of other conditions.
There is no doubt that bulimia is a serious condition requiring immediate medical intervention. As with other eating disorders, therapists must utilise a multi-pronged approach to treating this condition. Treatments are both physical and psychological.
To begin with, bulimia can be treated through an outpatient programme as long as the patient’s health is not immediately in jeopardy. Otherwise, hospitalisation or inpatient treatment at a private clinic will be required. The first course of action is to begin to restore nutritional balance so that the body can do as much as possible to heal itself.
Once the physical aspects of bulimia are under control, therapists turn to the psychological and emotional. Therapies employed in this regard are designed to help uncover what triggered the bulimia; more often than not the trigger is some sort of unusual stress. With the trigger uncovered, therapists can begin working with the individual to overcome it.
Three of the more common psychotherapeutic treatments are:
CBT – Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has proven very effective for the treatment of bulimia. This treatment is designed to identify negative and incorrect thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Those negatives are then corrected by working through a series of predetermined goals.
Interpersonal Therapy – This counselling-based therapy seeks to identify any relationship difficulties the patient may have that could trigger the kinds of thoughts associated with bulimia. Improving those relationships should ward off future episodes of bulimia.
Family Counselling – Family counselling can be tremendously helpful by equipping parents with the knowledge they need to interrupt future episodes of bulimia. The patient can also regain a suitable amount of control over eating habits with the support of family members.
Please do not hesitate to get in contact with us if you believe you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia. This is a condition that will not go away by itself. It is also one that can prove fatal if left untreated. Contact us so we can refer you to a treatment provider with the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you overcome.