Bulimia

Eating disorders are more and more frequent. Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by a total loss of control during which time the person consumes large amounts of food very quickly. Foods consumed are usually very high in calories. Following this loss of control, remorse and shame take over the person, who often experience abdominal pain. The person may then induce vomiting or use products to help him or her quickly eliminate the calories (laxatives, purgatives, etc.). Others choose to exercise until complete exertion.

Bulimia appears during the late teens or early adulthood. In Caucasian middle or upper class families, approximately 2% of female adolescents battle this disease. Among ten people with the disease, there will be 8 women and only 2 men. In addition, 30 to 50% of those who suffer from this disease have what is called a mixed disorder (anorexia-bulimia).

People with bulimia are obsessed by the fear of gaining weight. Because they often do not lose much weight, diagnosing people with bulimia can take more time. In contrats to those who suffer from anorexia, people with bulimia are aware of their disorder. However, they feel ashamed of their condition and will try to hide it from everyone around them.

Symptoms

Bulimia is a mental disorder. People who suffer from the disease often come from troubled families with a history of depression and/or anxiety. Those who diet continuously may be more at risk. Alcohol or drug use can also precipitate attacks. Dieting, bulimia attacks and bulimia itself must be distinguished. In dieting, the person usually sets goals or target weight to be reached. People with bulimia want to lose as much weight as possible, without setting a limit. However, to diagnose bulimia, bulimia attacks must be recurrent, i.e. at least 2 to 3 attacks per week for 3 months. Here are questions that can help you determine if someone suffers from bulimia.

Is the person depressed?YesNo
Does the person suffer from anxiety attacks (panic, social phobia, etc.)?YesNo
Does the person tend to be hyperactive or on the contrary easily tired?YesNo
Does the person isolate herself/himself when eating? If not, does she/he go to the bathroom for prolonged period after eating?YesNo
Is the person abusing drugs?YesNo
Does the person show signs of self-mutilation?YesNo

If you answered "yes" to several of these questions, the person may well need help.

Treatment

Once bulimia has been diagnosed, the patient usually starts psychotherapy. Antidepressant drugs are often prescribed to help correct dietary deficiencies and compulsive eating. Hospitalization is rarely needed. Hospitalized patients are usually treated both by a psychiatrist and a dietician to help them regain normal eating patterns and accurate self image. The healing process is difficult and support from family and friends may be a great help.

For more information :

Canadian Mental Health Association

www.cmha.ca

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