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Bulimia: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

Victory Bay

Eating disorders thrive in secrecy. Like most mental health disorders, they grow in the dark and in the ways we hide our pain from others. Eating disorders are also some of the most deadly disorders due to the health consequences that come from inadequate nutrition. Couple that with the fact that those in recovery cannot just abstain from food, and must learn to develop a new relationship with food and their bodies, and recovery becomes all the more difficult.   

What is Bulimia? 

Bulimia is often hard to recognize, as most symptoms take place in a hidden way. Formally known as Bulimia Nervosa, it is categorized by a cycle of binging large amounts of food in an uncontrollable way, and then purging as a way to control the food intake or rid themselves of the extra calories. 

This purging can take many forms. For some, self-induced vomiting is a key component. Those with Bulimia may also misuse laxatives, “diet pills”, enemas and diuretics. Bulimia also mirrors symptoms of Anorexia, such as fasting, restricting, dieting and excessive exercise.

As with most eating disorders, there is a hyper fixation of body image and weight. Sufferers may perceive their bodies to be different then they actually are. Due to these distorted thought patterns, recovering from Bulimia is more than just developing a new relationship with food, it also requires work on a deeper level, examining our trauma, thought patterns, and potentially other co-occurring mental health disorders

Signs of Bulimia 

If you suspect you or a loved one is struggling with Bulimia, here are some of the signs to be on the lookout for. 

  • Preoccupation with / distortion of body image 
  • Disappearing after meals  
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety 
  • Eating excessive amounts of food  
  • Large amounts of food disappearing  
  • Social withdrawal 
  • Eating meals in secrecy  
  • Creating a lifestyle around meals and the binge/purge cycle  

Symptoms of Bulimia  

While the above signs of Bulimia give us a good roadmap for how to key into if someone is struggling with the disorder, the following symptoms of Bulimia give a more concrete diagnostic criteria for how to identify and guide treatment. Symptoms of Bulimia include: 

  • Self-induced vomiting, abuse of laxatives, or extreme fluid intake 
  • Excessive exercise 
  • Dental Issues resulting from vomiting 
  • Dehydration & Fatigue  
  • Noticeable weight fluctuation  
  • Changing voice 
  • Extreme fear of weight gain  
  • Gastrointestinal problems 

It’s important to note that Bulimia has a high rate of co-occurrence with mental health disorders such as substance use, depression and anxiety. High impulsivity and self-harm behaviors also are prevalent in the presence of eating disorders.  

These are by no means the only signs to look out for, but provide a good foundation for how to pay attention to ourselves or our loved ones behavior and determine if professional help is needed.  

I think I have an eating disorder – what’s next? 

While eating disorders like Bulimia are dangerous, the good news is that they are treatable. Many people who once were active in eating disorder behaviors find their way into recovery with the help of treatment, therapy and deeper understanding around nutrition.  

The first step in moving towards ED recovery is being honest with how these symptoms are affecting your quality of life. From a diagnostic standpoint, Bulimia is categorized from mild to severe, meaning that you don’t have to meet all the criteria presented to start your journey in recovery. Even having one symptom is a good indicator you would benefit from the help of professionals. Ask yourself: 

  • Does my relationship with food impact my daily schedule and relationships? 
  • Do I hyper-fixate on my body, weight or the way I’m perceived by these characteristics? 
  • Do I find myself unable to control the amount of food I am eating? 
  • Do I feel shame, guilt and confusion after I eat? 

Answering yes to any of these questions means it’s time to talk to someone. The resources are available if you begin to look. Here’s some places you can start: 

  • Talk to your primary care doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing. They can connect you with an appropriate referral source for treatment. 
  • If you decide to engage in treatment, allow yourself to engage in an intake with an eating disorder treatment center. They can provide you with a diagnosis, and recommend the appropriate level of care for your recovery. 
  • Find an individual therapist who can help you address the things that hide beneath your eating disorder, such as anxiety, depression or trauma.  
  • Be open to re-evaluating both your body image and relationship with food 

Eating disorder recovery is scary. Remember, symptoms thrive in the dark and the secrecy. Bringing these concerns to the right treatment provider we allow for light to be shed on your symptoms, providing you with the much needed support and validation needed to enter into recovery. Reach out for help today.  

Recovery with Victory Bay

At Victory Bay we’re here to help you achieve a new life with a new start in recovery. To learn more about the variety of treatment programs we offer, including mental health, eating disorders, and substance use, contact us today by calling 855.239.5099.