Bulimia - Describe Your Experience

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What is bulimia?

Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder. Bulimia is characterized by episodes of secretive excessive eating (bingeing) followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting (purging), abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise. Like anorexia, bulimia is a psychological disorder. It is another condition that goes beyond out-of-control dieting. The cycle of overeating and purging can quickly become an obsession similar to an addiction to drugs or other substances. The disorder generally occurs after a variety of unsuccessful attempts at dieting.

Bulimia is estimated to affect between 3% of all women in the U.S. at some point in their lifetime. About 6% of teen girls and 5% of college-aged females are believed to suffer from bulimia. These numbers are somewhat lower than earlier estimates of the prevalence of bulimia due to the precise criteria now established for the diagnosis (see below). Approximately 10% of identified bulimic patients are men. Bulimics are also susceptible to other compulsions, affective disorders, or addictions. Twenty to 40% of women with bulimia also have a history of problems related to drug or alcohol use, suggesting that many affected women may have difficulties with control of behavioral impulses.

Unlike anorexics, bulimics experience significant weight fluctuations, but their weight loss is usually not as severe or obvious as anorexics. The long-term prognosis for bulimics is slightly better than for anorexics, and the recovery rate is felt to be higher. However, many bulimics continue to retain slightly abnormal eating and dieting behaviors even after the recovery period.

The secrecy of bulimia stems from the shame that bulimics often attach to the disorder. Binge eating is not triggered by intense hunger. It is a response to depression, stress, or other feelings related to body weight, shape, or food. Binge eating often brings on a feeling of calm or happiness (euphoria), but the self-loathing because of the overeating soon replaces the short-lived euphoria.

Often, the individual will feel an impairment or loss of control during the binge eating and the purging becomes a way of regaining control. Not all bulimics engage in self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas during the current episode. Some may fast for days following a binge episode. Others may resort to excessive exercise as a method to regain their control and rid their body of the possible weight gained during the binge. Excessive exercise is that which interferes with normal daily activities or when it occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings, or when it continues despite illness or injury.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Felice, 19-24 Female (Patient) Published: November 01

I'm 22 years old and have been having this eating disorder since two years ago. For the first time I dieted with acupuncture therapy and dropped 8 kilograms (127lbs to 110lbs) just in 2 weeks! Day by day I'm so obsessed and always go on the scales to control my weight, I also drink a laxative tea; till one day I felt full and vomited. I'm satisfied to throw up the food without getting it digested. And now my weight is 43 kilograms (94lbs) and I still feel fat. I'm still taking my laxative tea, doing sports (gymnastics) excessively and vomiting after eating. My boyfriend knows that I am bulimic. He keeps demanding me to get away from bulimia, and I want to. But on the other hand I do not want to gain up on my weight.

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Comment from: Tink, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: November 25

I am 38 years old and I've been bulimic over 15 years. I was 185lbs at 14 years old, as a freshman in high school. I started out probably like everyone else, looking at this as a "temporary" way to eat what I want and control my weight. I started exercising excessively, and bingeing and purging. I then switched to starvation for about 8 months in my mid to late 20s. I started an extensive outpatient program about 8 to 9 years ago but was not ready or in the right frame of mind. I have been at my current job for 7 years hiding my disorder but not anymore. I have lack of energy, have needed to go home early and was calling in sick the past few months. My boss has been great and said they're here for me and will work with me with doctor's appointments. I have finally stepped up to the plate. My body has shut down, I know I'm going to die if I don't stop. I went back to the clinic and cried when they told me at this point I need to check into a particular hospital the next state over for two weeks with intensive monitoring. I submitted the intake form this morning, made the phone call. This is the worst possible thing anyone could imagine going through. I'm 5'6" and weigh 111lbs now, I can't function, I have put myself in major financial strain because I can literally spend over $500 a week on food, for "just myself!" I live alone so I'm out of control. I am going to be checking into the hospital shortly; you have no idea how this has destroyed my whole life!

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