Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder and mental health condition. People who have bulimia try to control their weight by binge eating and purging the food from their body by making themselves sick and/or by using laxatives. Women are much more likely to develop bulimia than men, although past England cricket captain Freddie Flintoff and singer Elton John have both suffered from it. Well known women who have talked about grappling with bulimia include singer Lily Allen, Oscar winning actress Jane Fonda and Princess Diana.
- Bingeing – eating large amounts of food
- Purging after bingeing – vomiting, over exercising, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting
- Preoccupied with thoughts of food and life may be organised around shopping, eating and purging behaviour
- Usually secretive about bulimic episodes – disappearing soon after eating
- Gastric problems – stomach pain, constipation, feeling bloated
- Regular changes in weight
- Bulimia can cause a swelling of the hands and feet due to fluid retention
- Periods stop or become irregular (amenorrhea)
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Calluses on the backs of the hand from forcing down throat to vomit
- Electrolyte abnormalities/imbalance
- Bulimia can lead to a person becoming dehydrated due to purging
- Numbness, with feelings blocked out by bingeing and purging
- Bulimia can be associated with depression, low self-esteem, misuse of alcohol and self-harm
- Mood swings
- Feeling anxious or tense
- Bulimia can give you a distorted perception of your body shape and/or weight
- Feeling of loss of control over eating and trying to get control back
- Feelings of guilt and shame after bingeing and purging
- Bulimia can make you feel isolated and lonely – scared of being found out by family and friends
- Fatigue and lethargy
Accepting that you need help and support is the first step to recovery, but this may be a very difficult step to take as you may have hidden your situation for a considerable length of time. People with bulimia can helpfully explore and understand the underlying issues and feelings that are contributing to their eating difficulties and change their attitudes to food and weight. This can be done through a course of counselling.
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