Many people ponder the question of who can bulimia affect, especially those who believe they might be at risk themselves even though in their eyes they do not meet the profile of a stereotypical bulimic. The truth is bulimia is not an illness that affects a specific type of person. You do not have to be a certain age and you do not have to be female to be affected by bulimia.
To understand the question of who can bulimia affect, it is important to know a bit more about what the illness actually is. For example, did you know that it is a serious illness? Bulimia nervosa is a mental health disorder and not a lifestyle choice, despite what many individuals might believe.
What Is Bulimia?
And because bulimia is a serious mental health condition, it can have devastating implications for those who suffer from it. It is basically an eating disorder whereby those affected have an unhealthy attitude towards food and who usually have a fear of gaining weight.
Bulimia is characterised by cycles of binge eating followed by purging. Purging is the name given to the process of trying to rid oneself of the excess calories that have been consumed. This might be done through excessive exercising, induced vomiting, or using laxatives.
While most people overeat from time to time, it is not the same as a binge. A binge is a period where a person is not in control of how much food he or she is eating. Most of those who binge on food will do so alone, and many admit afterwards that during the binge, it was as if they were outside of their own body with absolutely no control over what they were doing. This person might then feel guilty or ashamed about what he or she has eaten, and so the purging will begin.
Who Can Be Affected by Bulimia?
It is common to believe that bulimia is a choice and that those affected are typically young girls or those in the public eye desperate to look a certain way. While many young girls and female celebrities do suffer from bulimia, they are certainly not the only ones.
So when thinking about the question of who can bulimia affect, it is important to consider the causes of this illness. It is also important to remember that bulimia is not a choice. Although it does typically develop during adolescence, it can happen at any age.
Those affected by bulimia often have a few things in common, such as a poor body image and a low self-esteem. They may be using food as a way to have some control over their lives, particularly if there are other areas of their life where they feel as though they have no control.
Certain factors can lead to bulimia developing including stressful events in life or a history of traumatic experiences. Any stressful life event, such as the breakup of a relationship, starting a new job or getting married, can signal the onset of bulimia in some individuals.
Nonetheless, these events will not cause bulimia in everyone. There are certain people who are more prone to developing mental health problems, such as those with a family history of such or those who have experienced trauma in the past. Things, like being bullied, being sexually abused, being neglected as a child, or losing a parent, can all have a deep emotional impact on a person and be the contributing factor to bulimia.
How Does Bulimia Affect You?
It can be difficult for others to spot the signs of bulimia in a person, especially in the early days. Many bulimics tend to have a stable weight, which can mask the other tell-tale signs of this disorder. However, under the surface, a lot of damage is going on inside the body.
If you are a sufferer and are constantly purging yourself through vomiting or taking laxatives, you will be at risk of dehydration. You could be in danger of losing important electrolytes from your body, which can lead to low potassium levels. If this were to happen, you might experience an irregular heartbeat, coupled with a feeling of lethargy and an inability to think clearly. In extreme cases, this can actually result in death. Constantly low potassium levels can also result in kidney failure.
You might also be feeling weak and tired and may notice physical symptoms such as brittle fingernails, dry hair and skin, and dental problems caused by acid from the stomach from constant vomiting. You might be suffering from constipation and you may develop bone problems as well.
Do You Have Bulimia?
As well as the physical symptoms associated with bulimia, there are some behavioural signs to look out for that could indicate there is an issue with the illness. For example, you might be:
- becoming obsessed with your body shape or weight
- afraid of putting on weight
- constantly comparing your body with that of others
- having periods where you eat substantial amounts of food in a short space of time
- trying to rid yourself of the excess calories you have eaten by making yourself sick or taking laxatives
- misusing alcohol or drugs to make you feel better
- becoming socially withdrawn so that you can hide your secret from others
- hoarding food so that you can binge in secret.
If you can relate to some of the above, it may well be that you have a problem that requires treatment for you to turn your life around and get better.
What Is Treatment for Bulimia Like?
Overcoming bulimia is an important step when it comes to regaining control of your life. The hardest part though will be admitting that the problem exists. It is hard for those affected by mental health problems to come to terms with the fact that they have an issue because in their mind, everything is fine and they have full control over their eating. In fact, their eating habits may be the only thing that they feel they do have control over.
It is important to get help as soon as possible because the longer the condition goes untreated, the harder it can be to break the cycle of bingeing and purging. If you know that you have a problem and that you need help, know that this is an illness that can be treated.
You should be aware, however, that bulimia can be a complex illness to treat and you will not recover overnight. Treatment typically takes the form of therapy either on a one-to-one basis or as part of a group therapy session.
It will be necessary for you to identify the cause of your illness and any triggers to your behaviours, as addressing these could be the key to helping you get better. You need to learn how to overcome your compulsion to purge yourself after you have eaten, so it may be the case that a programme of inpatient therapy is required to facilitate this.
In an inpatient facility, trained doctors and nurses will be able to monitor you at all times and will help you learn how to break the cycle of purging after eating. You will have daily therapy sessions where you will work on addressing the negative thought processes that contribute to your behaviour. You will also learn new coping strategies to help you deal with the stressful life situations that have led you to this point.
If you would like more information about any aspect of bulimia and how it can be overcome, please contact us at Liberty House Clinic today. We have trained counsellors and therapists who can answer any of your queries and who can help you to get your life back under control. Please call for more information about our programmes and how to access them.