Eating Right: Symptoms, Side Effects, and Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa

Eating disorders affect over 5 million Americans every year. A person loses a life every 62 minutes as a result of an eating disorder and according to research in current psychiatry reports, eating disorders are the most lethal mental health conditions (Amen Clinics, 2020). Yet, knowledge regarding the different types of eating disorders is not commonplace, making them less known to the public. 

From How bulimia affects the body [Online Image], by Office of Women’s Health, 2015, Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bulimiafaqdia.jpg). CC 2.0.
One of the more common eating disorders is bulimia nervosa. It is characterized by overeating. Individuals diagnosed with bulimia may consume large amounts of food in a short period of time. This behavior is referred to as binge eating and is usually followed by purging, as individuals attempt to rid themselves of the extra calories in unhealthy ways. Purging methods include self-induced vomiting and misusing weight-loss supplements such as laxatives and diuretics. Purging behaviors can lead to several medical complications including dehydration, heart problems (such as irregular heartbeat or heart failure), tooth and gum disease, irregular periods in females, and digestive issues (such as acid reflux or stomach pain). Nonpurging ways of restricting calories include through extreme dieting and excessive exercise. 

Bulimia isn’t just about how much food one consumes, it is also driven by self-image and self-confidence. Individuals with bulimia overemphasize their weight and body shape and harshly judge themselves based on the way they perceive their own bodies. They often compare their body shape to the ideal societal standard and criticize the way they look. This phenomenon is worsened by the influence that the media has in modern society. For example, magazines often use slimming filters and other photoshop techniques to touch up body size and shape. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, a recent study of women between the ages of 18 and 25 showed a link between Instagram and increased self-objectification and body image concerns, especially among those who frequently viewed fitspiration images (NEDA, 2018).

 

Certain risk factors and genetic predispositions can play an increased role in the development of bulimia. People that have a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop one themselves. Also, people going through mental health issues such as depression are more likely to develop bulimia because they may feel negative about themselves. According to the Center for Eating Disorder Assessment, “40-60% of the risk of developing an eating disorder is due to genetic factors.” (CEDARS, 2022)

 

If you notice symptoms such as binge eating, purging, or self-induced vomiting, it is important to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Depending on the number of purging episodes per week, the severity and treatment plan for bulimia can be determined. Talking to a primary care provider or mental health professional can lead individuals with bulimia to take the next steps forward in their recovery process. The National Eating Disorders Association has a helpline open Monday-Friday where you can call, text, or online chat at (800)-931-2237. You can learn more at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline.

 

Although there is no way to prevent bulimia, healthier behavior can be encouraged before the situation gets worse. As a society, donating to organizations such as National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) can help support prevention measures. Participating in local fundraisers and events can help raise awareness about these topics. On social media, healthy body image can be promoted through participation in campaigns such as Body Acceptance Week and NEDAAwareness Week. Show your support for healthy body images and eating behaviors by posting a picture of yourself wearing the color purple to raise awareness about eating disorders. Make sure to put the eating disorder pledge (provided below) in your caption or copy paste into your story post and tag our instagram: @ed_awareness.mhhs

 

Eating Disorder Pledge: “I believe that words matter. I want to make a positive impact on the people in my life by stopping harmful diet and weight talk. I am committed to making sure that everyone gets a chance to develop healthy relationships with food and body.”

 

Works Cited:

 

Are eating disorders genetic? CEDARS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2022, from https://www.cedars-support.com/are-eating-disorders-genetic/#:~:text=Eating%20disorders%20do%20run%20in%20families.&text=Additionally%2C%2040%2D60%25%20of,is%20due%20to%20genetic%20factors

Do You Know the Deadliest Mental Health Disorder? (It’s Not What You Think). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/do-you-know-the-deadliest-mental-health-disorder-its-not-what-you-think/

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Bulimia Nervosa.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 May 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353615  

Office of Women’s Health. (2015). How bulimia affects the body. [Online Image]. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bulimiafaqdia.jpg  

What Does the Research Tell Us About Social Media and Body Image? (2018, February 21). Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/what-does-the-research-show-social-media-body-image