Bulimia Nervosa is characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours and a preoccupation with body shape.
Binge eating requires two key features: eating very large amounts of food within a relatively short period of time (e.g. within two hours) usually in a rapid, automatic fashion. And secondly experience a sense of loss of control over eating.
The binge is usually followed by a compensatory behaviour to ‘get rid’ of the food or calories eaten. They include:
- Misusing laxatives or diuretics
- Excessive exercise
- Diet pills
These behaviours are often concealed and people with Bulimia Nervosa can go to great lengths to keep their eating and exercise habits secret. As a result, Bulimia Nervosa can often go undetected for a long period of time. Many people with Bulimia Nervosa experience weight fluctuations and do not lose weight; they can remain in the normal weight range, be slightly underweight, or may even gain weight
Bulimia Nervosa often starts with weight-loss dieting in the ‘pursuit for thinness’. Individuals who binge or purge tend to be highly critical of themselves and have very low self-esteem. They may feel ashamed of their behaviour and withdraw from social gatherings, fearing they will be found out. They may also feel helplessly trapped in this cycle..
There are two types of Bulimia Nervosa 1) Purging 2) Non-purging
- Purging type occurs when a person regularly induces vomiting or issues laxatives, enemas or diuretics to compensate for episodes of binge eating.
- Non-purging type occurs when a person engages in regular fasting or excessive exercise, but does not demonstrate purging behaviours such as vomiting or misusing laxatives.
Having awareness about Bulimia Nervosa and its signs and symptoms can make a huge difference to the duration and severity of the illness. Seeking help at the first warning sign is much more effective than waiting until the illness is in full swing.
If you are concerned about someone you know who you think may have an eating disorder it is vital to seek help and support as soon as possible. Recovery is possible and the path to recovery can be long and challenging that is why they need specialised health professionals who are specifically trained in the management of eating disorders. It often requires a multidisciplinary treatment team to provide the best evidenced based treatment to promote recovery and prevent relapses. This mental illness is complex, it requires psychological, behavioural, dietary and social support interventions. Your GP is a good ‘first base’ point of contact. They can refer you onto a health professional who is specialised in this field. Your GP will be able to help monitor your medical stability to ensure you are medically safe or if you require more intensive hospitalised treatment.
It is important to seek help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. For more information about eating disorders please visit the National Eating Disorders Collaboration website at http://www.nedc.com.au/