Bulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life threatening mental illness.
A person with bulimia has not made a “lifestyle choice”, they are actually very unwell and need help.
The reasons for developing Bulimia will differ from person to person; known causes include genetic predisposition and a combination of environmental, social and cultural factors.
Bulimia is characterised by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviours. In addition, people with bulimia place an excessive emphasis on body shape or weight in their self-evaluation. This can lead to the person’s sense of self-esteem and self worth being wholly defined by the way they look.
A person with Bulimia can become lost in a dangerous cycle of eating out of control and attempts to compensate which can lead to feelings of shame, guilt and disgust. These behaviours can become more compulsive and uncontrollable over time, and lead to an obsession with food, thoughts about eating (or not eating), weight loss, dieting and body image.
These behaviours are often concealed and people with Bulimia can go to great lengths to keep their eating and exercise habits secret. As a result, Bulimia can often go undetected for a long period of time.
Many people with Bulimia experience weight fluctuations and do not lose weight, they can remain in the normal weight range, be slightly underweight, or may even gain weight.
Binge eating involves two key features:
Compensatory behaviours are used as a way of trying to control weight after binge eating episodes. They include:
Having awareness about Bulimia and its warning signs and symptoms can make a marked difference to the severity and duration 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 or someone you know is exhibiting some or a combination of these signs it is vital to seek help and support as soon as possible.
The warning signs of Bulimia can be physical, psychological and behavioural. It is possible for someone with Bulimia to display a combination of these symptoms.
The risks associated with Bulimia are severe. People with Bulimia may experience:
Therapies to be considered for the treatment of Bulimia Nervosa include:
Antidepressants (specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; e.g. SSRI) may also be prescribed for someone who is suffering from Bulimia Nervosa.
Yes. It is possible to recover from Bulimia, even if you have been living with the illness for many years. The path to recovery can be very challenging. People with Bulimia can become entangled in a vicious cycle of eating and exercise behaviours that can impact their ability to think clearly and make decisions. However, with the right team and a high level of personal commitment, recovery is an achievable goal.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has Bulimia, it is important to seek help immediately. The earlier you seek help the closer you are to recovery. While your GP may not be a specialist in eating disorders, they are a good ‘first base.’ A GP can provide a referral to a practitioner with specialised knowledge in health, nutrition and eating disorders.
For support, information, access to resources or referrals, you can also contact Butterfly's National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (8am-midnight, AEST, 7 days a week), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or use webchat.
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