A bulimic person's life is controlled by the vicious circle of dieting, binging and purging. The self-esteem of people with bulimia symptoms is usually directly related to their weight and body shape. Bulimic people aim to control their eating and body in the same way as anorexic people do. However, the constant rationing of food leads to binging, and the person loses control over what he or she eats. During these binging episodes bulimic people can eat amounts of foods which to healthy people seem inconceivably large. Binging causes the person with the disorder to feel not only physical discomfort, but also shame and self-loathing, and to get rid of these feelings the person for example vomits, uses laxatives or diuretics, or exercises abundantly. This act of purging is constantly followed by the decision to start a "better life" i.e. a promise to lose weight.
People who suffer from bulimia nervosa do not necessarily lose or gain any significant amount of weight: typically their weight varies within normal limits. Therefore bulimia is often not considered as serious a sickness as anorexia nervosa which leads to serious underweight. It is important to note, however, that bulimia is a very hard and severe disease both for the mind and the body of the patient. Long-term vomiting can seriously endanger the fluid and electrolyte balance of the body. Bulimic behavior can also include more 'cutting' and other self-destructive behavior than anorexic behavior does.
Typical symptoms and effects of bulimia nervosa:
- constant anxiety and shame about one's own appearance and weight
- repeated secret binging
- hidden candy wrappers, cookie packets, etc.
- large sums of money spent on sweets and goodies
- the freezer and cupboards 'emptying themselves'
- depression, self-loathing, solitude, self-destructiveness
- stomach aches, indigestion
- trips to the bathroom right after meals
- bloodshot eyes after throwing up
- bruised knuckles (results of forced vomiting)
- swollen salivary glands, damaged tooth enamel, hoarse voice, possible arrhythmia caused by constant vomiting
- using diuretics or laxatives
- dieting, fasting and abundant exercise
- irregular menstrual cycle caused by weight fluctuations
BED - binge eating disorder
The symptoms of binge eating disorder (BED) are similar to those of bulimia nervosa. The difference is that people suffering from BED do not try to get rid of the food they have binged, and therefore the compensatory behaviors (such as vomiting, fasting or using laxatives) and their consequences are not present.