Based on research by John Hopkins University, Bulimia is an emotional disorder involving distortion of body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by depression and self-induced vomiting, purging, or fasting.
Bulimia nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects 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:
• Purging type. The person engages in self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas, or other medicines that clear the intestines.
• Non-purging type. The person uses other behaviors, such as fasting or excessive exercise, rather than purging behaviors.
Who is at risk for bulimia?
Bulimia most often affects females and starts during the teenage years. But, it can also affect males. People with bulimia are more likely to come from families with a history of eating disorders, physical illness, and other mental health problems. Other illnesses, such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders are common in people with bulimia.
The cause of bulimia is not known. Society and cultural ideals that assign value based on body weight and shape play a role. There is also a genetic link as eating disorders tend to run in families.
The symptoms of bulimia may look like other medical problems or mental health conditions. Always talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.