Copyright 2006 Anne Wolski
In a world where a persons worth tends to be measured by appearance, it is little wonder that we have so many young women falling into the trap of eating disorders. This obsession with achieving the perfect figure has led to one of the most dangerous and life-threatening epidemics of our time.
Bulimia is but one of a growing number of eating disorders recognized in our modern society. It is a serious disorder characterized by binge eating followed by forced vomiting or by purging using laxatives. People with bulimia go through this ritual in order to avoid the weight gain which would normally accompany an eating binge.
Why people get this condition is largely unknown and prone to speculation though it is commonly believed that family and social pressure, as well as unrealistic portrayals of perfect body image in the media, play a significant role. The person is also likely to have intense psychological problems.
Unlike people with anorexia, sufferers of bulimia are not as obvious as they normally remain within about twenty percent of their normal weight range. This makes it difficult for a doctor to diagnose. A person with anorexia has the obvious signs of emaciation but with a bulimia sufferer, it is really necessary to observe the binge eating. Because binge eating is usually carried out secretively, this can create a problem in reaching an early diagnosis.
The person is likely to come from a middle-class or upper-class family who are very controlling and put great importance on achievement. The person is often led to believe that diet and figure are of extreme importance. Thus, the person with bulimia, already suffering from a distorted body image, loses their self-esteem.
Because they suffer from bouts of insatiable hunger, they must then compensate for their binges by removing the food from their body by whatever means they can in order to achieve the image acceptable to the parents and to society in general.
These episodes of induced vomiting and purging bring with them another lot of medical problems. In the case of repeated vomiting, the acid irritates the esophagus and pharynx, leaving them inflamed. The acid also affects the teeth, leaving them sharp and rough. Laxative abuse can cause hemorrhoids as well as chronic constipation. Vomiting and the abuse of laxatives can both cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Treatment often relies on hospitalization where the person receives psychiatric counseling to try to uncover the underlying causes and to help the person to self recovery through understanding of their own issues. There is often group therapy involved as well.
The physical problems are treated symptomatically and also include a diet regime that can control weight without the dangers that this obsession of bulimia can bring. The person should continue with counseling for quite some time after returning home from hospital.
Although bulimia is a serious disorder, death is rare. By seeking treatment and with the loving support of family and friends, the sufferer can eventually return to normal eating habits and a normal, happy and healthy lifestyle.