Overview of Bulimia

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is one of the more common types of eating disorders. Similar to some other eating disorders, individuals have an extreme fear of weight gain. What differentiates bulimia is that individuals have a misinterpreted body image where they perceive themselves to be overweight, even when underweight or within a normal healthy range. In trying to combat this perceived excess weight, individuals purge themselves of the food they consume using laxatives or other means so that their caloric intake falls well under recommended guidelines.

The causes of eating disorders like bulimia are not well understood and are thought to come from a variety of sources. Cultural influences from peers and the media that place great importance on a specific body image and type may play a great part in the development of bulimia, especially among adolescents. Biological factors may also be an underlying cause of bulimia, similar to personality disorders. There is some evidence that individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may be predisposed to developing bulimia.

Because eating disorders are also associated with other psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental illnesses, diagnosing bulimia can be particularly difficult. In instances of dietary limitation, complications related to malnutrition and dehydration may arise including weakness and fatigue. Bulimia can lead to severe physical complications over time. In serious cases, organ problems, especially relating to the esophagus, may be found as well as tooth erosion.

Treatment options are highly specified to each individual. Combinations of varying methods are used and require long-term commitments as changes in behavior take time to make. Due to the obsessive-compulsive nature of bulimia, counseling with a psychologist is an important part of treatment for patients along with varying forms of behavioral therapy.