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Bulimia Nervosa in Adults

Bulimia Nervosa is characterised by recurrent episodes of binge-eating, followed by compensatory behaviours such as purging or over-exercising. These binge episodes are associated with a sense of loss of control and afterwards feelings of guilt or shame, hence leading to compensatory behaviour. Sufferers of bulimia place excessive importance on body shape and weight; leading to self-esteem being directly affected by the way they look.

What is classified as Binge eating?

Binge eating involves eating an extremely large amount of food in a relatively short time accompanied by a sense of no control or ability to stop.

What are Compensatory behaviours?

Compensatory behaviours are ways of trying to regulate body weight after experiencing guilt or shame from binging. This can be done by:

  • Forced vomiting
  • Misuse of laxatives
  • Fasting
  • Excessive exercise
  • Inappropriate use of drugs

Typical behaviour and symptoms

Bulimia Nervosa has physical and psychological symptoms ranging from:

  • Changes in weight
  • Swelling around the face due to excess vomiting
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Fatigue accompanied with lack of sleep
  • Preoccupation with eating, food and body shape
  • Low self esteem
  • Distorted body image
  • Depression and/or anxiety

More extreme sufferers may also experience self harm, substance abuse and suicidal ideations. Some typical behaviour someone with Bulimia Nervosa may do include:

  • Vomiting
  • Use of laxatives
  • Hoarding of food
  • Eating in private
  • Spending more time alone
  • Obsessively weighing themselves, looking in the mirror or pinching their waist or wrist
  • Secretive behaviour in regard to when and what they’ve eaten.
  • Compulsive or excessive exercise
  • Dieting, counting calories/kilojoules, avoid fats and carbohydrates
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom shortly after meals
  • Erratic behaviour

Treatment

Treatment for Bulimia includes a range of different psychotherapies all of which are effective in helping sufferers. Treatments include:

  • Self-help programs
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Crisis intervention
  • Stress management

Antidepressants must also be paired with the therapy.


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