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Food for Thought: Recognizing bulimia, causes, symptons

| February 17, 2021 12:00 AM

Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, is a psychological eating disorder. Bulimia is characterized by episodes of binge eating and purging.

Symptoms include: vomiting, fasting, enemas, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics or compulsive exercising.

Excessive shape and weight concerns are also characteristic of bulimia. Binging is a episode where an individual eats a much larger amount of food than most people would in a similar situation. Binging is not a response to intense hunger.

On the surface the desire to be thin appears to be the cause of the disorder. The real issues are underlying fears, doubts, insecurities, low self esteem and anxiety. The individual believes the use of food is necessary for relief from uncomfortable moods and feelings.

Food is a drug. When it is consumed in excessive amounts, it dulls the senses and relieves the pain. People with bulimia can look perfectly normal.

Most of them are of normal weight, and some may be overweight. Women with bulimia tend to be high achievers. Although, to a lesser degree, bulimia can also be found in men.

Causes? There is currently no definite known cause of bulimia. Researchers believe it begins with dissatisfaction of a person’s body and extreme concern with body size and shape.

Usually individuals suffering from bulimia have low self esteem, feelings of helplessness and a fear of becoming fat. Some recent findings suggest that lower brain serotonin function can trigger some of the clinical features of bulimia in individuals vulnerable to the disorder.

Symptoms include:

  • Eating uncontrollably, purging, strict dieting, fasting and vigorous exercise.
  • Vomiting or abusing laxatives or diuretics in an attempt to lose weight. Vomiting blood.
  • Using the bathroom frequently after meals.
  • Preoccupation with body weight.
  • Depression or mood swings. Feeling out of control.
  • Swollen glands in the neck or face.
  • Heartburn, bloating, indigestion, constipation
  • Irregular periods
  • Dental problems, sore throat
  • Weakness, exhaustion, bloodshot eyes

Serious medical complications from bulimia include:

  1. Erosion of tooth enamel because of repeated exposure to acidic gastric content
  2. Dental cavities, sensitivity to hot or cold food
  3. Swelling and soreness in the salivary glands (from repeated vomiting).
  4. Stomach ulcers
  5. Ruptures of the stomach and esophagus
  6. Abnormal buildup of fluid in the intestines.
  7. Disruption in the normal bowel function.
  8. Electrolyte imbalance.
  9. Dehydration
  10. Irregular heartbeat and in severe cases heart attack
  11. A greater risk for suicidal behavior
  12. Decrease in libido

Bulimia is a serious medical/emotional behavior disorder that requires specialize professional treatment. Biological, emotional, psychological and nutritional factors all need to be addressed

Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist practicing in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.