Bulimia is a type of eating disorder in which a person goes through episodes of ‘binge eating’, followed by episodes of ‘purging’.
‘Binge eating’ refers to times of eating a very large amount of food, during which the person feels a lack of control over their eating. Bulimia sufferers then try to prevent weight gain through ‘purging’ behaviours such as making themselves sick, exercising excessively, or using laxatives.
As well as these cycles of binging and purging, bulimia can involve a fear of gaining weight, a negative attitude to one’s own weight and body, and mood changes (including feeling anxious or tense).
Often, bulimia sufferers can hide the signs of their condition from others.
The cycle typical of bulimia is often set in motion by stress, sadness or hunger.
Bulimia can cause sufferers to feel tired and lethargic. Furthermore, as vomit is acidic, repeated vomiting can damage the teeth and cause dental problems, as well as leading to bad breath or a sore throat. Skin, muscle, bone and organ problems can also result from bulimia.
GPs and specialist community groups are good places to start when seeking help for anorexia.
A first step in treatment is often to use a guided self-help programme. This involves a person being assisted to monitor what they are eating, make realistic meal plans, identify the causes of their disorder and work out what sets off the behaviours. They are also helped to find ways to cope with the negative feelings involved in their condition in better ways.
Talking therapies like cognitive behaviour therapy may be used to treat bulimia. Treatment may vary depending on whether the person is an adult or is under 18.