Bulimia Nervosa usually arises in females in late adolescence with 1 in 5 sufferers reported to be male.
It can be defined as recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours such as vomiting and taking laxatives and/or diuretics to avoid weight gain.
Unlike Anorexia Nervosa, sufferers are usually of normal weight or over-weight. A diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa would be considered if the sufferer were underweight. They are also more likely to wish to be rid of their symptoms and actively seek help.
Bulimia Nervosa usually occurs following a diet in an attempt to lose weight. Foods which have been banned or forbidden on the diet such as biscuits, chocolate, crisps and cakes are typically consumed in a binge. They are likely to be eaten quickly and not really tasted or enjoyed. The sufferer will be unable to stop, often until the physical pain of being uncomfortably full forces them.
Bulimia Nervosa translates as “Ox like hunger of nervous origin” and the binge may temporarily quieten any anxiety felt. Sufferers often report feeling in a trance like state during a binge where the noise is shut out of an unmanageable or unacceptable life.
Afterwards, the horror of the effects of the binge will compel the sufferer to get rid of the calories consumed by vomiting and/or taking laxatives and diuretics. In extreme cases bloodletting will occur too.
The bulimic will often exercise excessively and starve between binges. The body’s response to starving is likely to be powerful cravings for food and the cycle of bingeing and purging continues.
Bulimia Nervosa is a very secretive disorder and was not even medically recognised until 1980, although its existence has been well documented in history for many years.
The secrecy, gorging and purging all contribute to the huge feelings of shame and disgust the sufferer often feels. They most likely feel fat and this is repulsive to them. Their inability to lose weight will compound feelings of failure and little self-worth.
As with Anorexia Nervosa, there are many predisposing conditions to developing Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa being on of them.
It will most likely follow a period of dieting and the sufferer may have made previous attempts to lose weight. They may have started many diets, yo-yoing between weights, losing to start with but not managing to maintain it.
The sufferer is also likely to have great difficulty managing their feelings or even recognising them. Bulimics often don’t know how they are feeling, other than fat, and have difficulty naming emotions.
Days are often judged on how good they will be depending on what the scales say or how their clothes fit. Their self-esteem and self-worth will be wrapped up in a very distorted, punishing body image. They typically have very low self-esteem and have very poor body image, utterly disgusted by the way they look.
The bulimia can become a way of dealing with anxiety and difficult emotions, pushing them down with food and purging them out in an attempt to be rid of them. This all-consuming disorder leaves little room for thoughts of anything else and all of life’s other problems can be managed through the rituals that Bulimia Nervosa brings.