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3rd part of our comprehensive Bulimia review looks at causes and diagnosis of this condition

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Bulimia Nervosa (Part 3)



Bulimia tends to develop slowly with the person gradually becoming more obsessive about their weight which can eventually lead it to get out of control.

As with other eating disorders, bulimia can be associated with depression, low self-esteem, stress, misuse of alcohol and self-harm. Bulimia is often associated with other psychological problems. Research shows that bulimia is more common in people who have anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders. There may be genetic link, for example, research suggests that people who have a close relative who has or has had bulimia are four times more likely to develop it themselves compared to a person who doesn’t have a relative with it.

Diagnosing bulimia

The most difficult step in tackling the problem of bulimia is recognising there is a problem and seeking help about it. Most people with bulimia hide their situation for months or years before seeking help. It can often take a change of situation (such as the start of a new relationship, a loved one tackling the person about the problem, a serious deterioration in health due to the condition) to make a person with bulimia want to seek help.

It is common for someone with an eating disorder to be secretive and defensive about their eating and their weight and denial they are unwell or need help. In this way, it is not that dissimilar to other addictive or psychological type disorders such as alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction etc. Initially the person can lead a fairly normal life. It is often only in the end stages when the person becomes so physically and psychologically unwell that it is obvious there is a problem, and the person can no longer lead a normal life. Losing weight becomes an addiction and like any addiction the point of complete satisfaction (with one’s weight in the case of anorexia or bulimia) is never attained. Eating becomes an “evil” thing in the eyes of the sufferer.

A GP often refers the person suffering from bulimia to a specialist mental health team trained in treating eating disorders such a bulimia. This can include specialist counsellors, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

To recover, someone with bulimia needs to change their eating habits, change the way they think about food and gain weight safely, if necessary

The longer the bulimia, the harder it is to re-learn healthy eating habits and gain weight. It is important to start treatment as early as possible, so the person has the best chance of recovery.

To be continued…next week.

Disclaimer: Information given is general; please ensure you consult with your healthcare professional before making any changes recommended

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