What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Bulimia nervosa is a deadly eating disorder characterized by a devastating cycle of binge eating, purging and other compensatory behaviors in order to lose weight and prevent weight gain.
Binge Eating Behavior
Individuals with bulimia often view binge eating as a reward within itself and a way to cope with the uncomfortable feelings and the stress of daily life. When bulimics engage in a binge, it usually involves consuming larger-than-average amounts of food. The food consumed is typically high in calories and fat. Individuals with bulimia usually engage in their binges in secret, rarely exhibiting bulimic behavior in the presence of others.
Bulimics often binge on a variety of foods, but the foods are usually sweet and/or high in fat. Binges are often impulsive, though they are sometimes planned in advance by the bulimic. Bulimia has a variety of triggers including:
- Dissatisfaction with body image
- Prolonged dieting
- Dysmorphic mood (such as depression, anxiety, irritability, sadness and restlessness)
- Familial and interpersonal stress
Emotional Eating & Negative Feelings
Individuals with bulimia nervosa may temporarily numb negative feelings with food binges, but this relief is short-lived. Bulimics often experience feelings of shame following binges. Individuals struggling with bulimia nervosa often experience low self-esteem as a result of feelings of losing control.
Purging & Weight Loss Attempts
When an individual is struggling with bulimia, it’s common to follow up binge eating behavior with various compensatory behaviors in an attempt to counterbalance their binge eating episodes. Vomiting is the most common compensatory behavior that bulimics engage in though bulimics also commonly engage in diuretic abuse and substance abuse.
The act of purging temporarily reduces feelings of fullness experiences by bulimics. It can momentarily reduce the fear of weight gain that bulimics struggle with on a daily basis. Some bulimics even anticipate their purging behaviors, enjoying the feeling of release afforded to them by purging.
Some common compensatory behaviors employed by individuals with bulimia to counteract their binge eating include:
- Laxative enemas
- Insulin abuse
- Ipecac abuse
- Strict diets
Body Image Obsession
Individuals with bulimia, like those with anorexia nervosa, become obsessed with the shape and weight of their bodies. It's common for those with bulimia nervosa to compulsively check their weight and the size of their body. They often engage in compulsive behaviors like repeatedly measuring, weighing or pinching themselves, as well as repeatedly looking at themselves in the mirror. A bulimic’s self-worth is often directly linked to their weight and shape.
Medical Complications from Bulimia
Bulimic individuals can experience a variety of dangerous medical complications associated with their eating disorder including esophageal tears, cardiac arrhythmia, digestive issues, dental problems and electrolyte imbalance. Visit our medical complications page for a complete list of medical complications associated with bulimia nervosa. Like anorexia, if left untreated, bulimia nervosa can be fatal.
In the United States, between 2-6% of people (5-16 million people) are affected with anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Up to 25 million more are suffering with binge eating disorder. It’s estimated that between 1% and 4% of the population are suffering with bulimia nervosa. For more statistics, please visit our eating disorder statistics page.
Getting Help for Bulimia
With the right help, you can and will triumph over the binge-purge cycle. At Rader Programs, we understand the feelings of shame you’re experiencing that are associated with your eating disorder. That’s why our bulimia treatment program was developed to lift the burden you bear. Our programs offer you the ultimate support and flexibility to fit into your lifestyle. We offer inpatient, outpatient, family counseling and daycare programs. If you are dealing with laxative abuse, ipecac abuse or another form of substance abuse, we can craft an individualized program to meet your needs and start you on the path to a lifelong recovery. Our healthy eating plan was created by a trained nutritionist, with a specialty in bulimia treatment. There’s no need to feel imprisoned by your body any longer. Our bulimia treatment program will help set you free for life.
Bulimia Treatment & Lifelong Recovery
At Rader Programs, we understand how to structure a bulimia treatment plan that not only nourishes your body, but also your mind and spirit. Our interdisciplinary staff will help create a program that caters to all of your needs as an individual. Through a variety of sessions we will help you overcome your feelings of failure. No matter your lifestyle, we have a program that can fit into it. Our programs include outpatient care, inpatient care, daycare sessions, a weekend program that helps bring your loved ones into the recovery process and continued care. There’s no need to suffer alone. Rader programs has a bulimia treatment program that can help you enjoy a lifetime of recovery.