Bulimia is an eating disorder that is sometimes linked to anorexia nervosa. The medical term is bulimia nervosa, and the major symptom is binge eating followed by vomiting. The vomiting is self induced in order to purge the body of the food that has been eaten. Around 85% of cases are teenage girls, and around 10-15% of the cases are men.
A bulimic person is preoccupied with food intake. Binge eating and purging may occur regularly, or it may come in cycles. The vomiting may be achieved by pushing fingers to the back of the mouth, or the bulimic may train herself to vomit at will. This regurgitation technique may stay with the bulimic for her entire life.
Other techniques used by the bulimic to purge food include laxatives and diuretics, and excessive exercising is another tell-tale sign of the condition. Purging may occur frequently throughout the day, or it may be less frequent. Some cases are brief, but for some, the condition may persist for life.
The foods that are most often binged on during the bulimia cycle are high calorie, sugary foods. The bulimic may consider these treats or comfort food, but after the food has been eaten, the person may feel disgusted, and the purging will occur. This disorder may be used as a rapid weight loss technique that soon spirals into a more serious condition.
The causes of bulimia are not entirely known, although peer pressure to stay thin and low self-confidence are thought to be factors. It can also be linked to problems such as depression and anxiety. The disorder is a way for some people to have control over their lives, and children who have been abused may develop the condition. Genetic links have also been found.
One of the major signs that someone is suffering from bulimia is a visit to the toilet straight after meals. He or she may also be very secretive about food and unwilling to discuss it. Fluctuations in weight may also be seen, and a sudden drop in weight may occur.
Other physical symptoms can include tooth decay due to acid brought up from the stomach rotting the tooth enamel. Bulimics may also have bad skin and fatigue. Women with this disorder often suffer from irregular periods, and the breasts may shrink due to weight loss.
Because of the secretive nature of the condition, treatment is rare. The problem can subside when the person regains self-confidence, or she may simply grow out of it. If the condition is severe, then medical advice should be sought.