What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is sometimes called bulimia nervosa by the medics. It’s also known as the ‘hidden’ eating disorder as its external signs aren’t often obvious. Bulimia involves repeated episodes of binge eating followed by purges to compensate for the compulsive over-eating. These compensatory activities include self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, fasting or dieting and the use of laxatives or appetite supressants. Someone suffering from bulimia usually maintains a normal body weight and appears to be in control of their lives, so friends, family, or work colleagues often assume that everything is OK.

Why is Bulimia dangerous?

While a person may appear ‘normal’ on the outside, they are doing serious damage to their bodies on the inside. Repeated vomiting depletes the body of essential nutrients needed to stay healthy. Combined with excessive use of laxatives this also causes dehydration and consequently electrolyte (body salt) depletion. This may lead to the more immediate risk of organ failure (particularly of the heart) because the levels of salts needed for their normal functioning are not properly balanced.

What Next?

The effects of bulimia are usually not obvious. The first thing you should do is visit your doctor to assess how purging and bingeing are affecting your body. A blood test will indicate the level of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. This can be managed through dietary and nutritional advice, but in severe cases hospitalization may be necessary. Your dentist can advise on how best to care for your teeth as the acid from repeated vomiting erodes the enamel, leading to tooth decay.

And finally, find someone to talk to. Talking to a mental health professional is an effective way of relieving the emotional distress associated with bulimia. Psychotherapy combined with correct nutritional advice can enable you to make a full recovery.

For more information: Bodywhys (The Eating Disorder Association of Ireland)

Bodywhys.ie / 1890 200444