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Overview of Bulimia Nervosa by Michelle Brungart

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Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is generally categorized by the act of binge eating that is followed by some form of purging the consumed calories. Bulimia is most common in women and teens, but may also affect males and other age groups as well. People with bulimia have constant episodes of feeling a loss of control, where they over-eat huge quantities of food and feel that they cannot control these binges. They then feel overwhelming amounts of guilt from the mass amount of calories consumed, so they find a way to purge the food by various methods such as induced vomiting, excessive exercise, or the misuse of laxatives or diuretics. People with bulimia usually have a severe fear of weight gain and have very negative thoughts about their body image.

It can be hard to tell if someone you know has bulimia because the signs are often easily hidden. People who are bulimic will almost always binge and purge in private and will do it very secretively. Often, people with bulimia are of average weight or sometimes even overweight, unlike people who have anorexia who are usually extremely underweight. Many consequences may occur from having bulimia.

There are many different tests and signs of having bulimia. Dental exams of people with bulimia will usually show many cavities, gum infections, and general wear and decay of some or all teeth from the constant stomach acid being purged. Other signs of bulimia include cuts or abrasions on knuckles from constant forceful vomiting, dry mouth, broken blood vessels in the eyes, and dehydration. Long-term effects of bulimia are osteoporosis, gum disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and death. Bulimia can be an extremely hard habit to break and it is not uncommon for people who get treatment to relapse into their old habits, but there are many forms of very helpful and successful treatments if the person who needs help is committed and persistent about getting better.

People with bulimia who want to get better need to first realize that they have a serious clinical problem that can cause many harmful effects to their health and should seek help from therapists, doctors, and nutritionists. Usually, a stepped approach will be used to help bulimics. A good first option is group therapy or support groups.  The next step is usually cognitive-behavioral therapy and nutritional therapy. If these alone do not help usually antidepressants are prescribed. It is important during this time that the person recovering has a strong, supportive friend/family base. Recovering from bulimia can be very hard work, but with the help of professionals, it can be conquered.

Stopping bulimia before it starts is the best way to help prevent it. It is important to teach children to have a positive body image and to help encourage their confidence. The best way to do this is to lead by example by showing healthy eating and exercising habits while not overly obsessing about weight, but on being healthy. Children and people of all ages must understand that being healthy is far more important than looking a particular, desired way because falling into the habits of bulimia or any other eating disorder can cause permanent life-long health effects or even death.



Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bulimia/DS00607

NIH: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001381/

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WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/bulimia-nervosa/default.htm

Kidshealth.org: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/eating_disorders.html#

Women’s Health: http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/bulimia-nervosa.cfm


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