What are the symptoms?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder where a person often has a fear of becoming fat. People with bulimia binge, then make themselves sick and/or use laxatives to help maintain their 'normal' weight.
Binge eating, self-induced vomiting and the excessive use of laxatives are usual practices for someone with bulimia.
Women's periods may become irregular or stop. Vomiting may also cause tooth decay, bad breath, mouth ulcers, sore throats, stomach disorders and calluses on the fingers.
Laxative abuse can cause dehydration, kidney problems and bowel problems. Mineral deficiency may also occur.
Many people with bulimia are depressed or suffer from other psychological or emotional conflicts.
Bulimia can start at any age, although it normally occurs during late teens. It's thought that during their lifetime about eight out of 100 women will be affected by bulimia.
More women have bulimia than men. The condition is believed to be two to three times more common than anorexia.
What causes it?
It's difficult to prevent bulimia from developing because it's unclear precisely why it occurs.
It's thought there may be a genetic association with bulimia. Some research suggests that lows levels of serotonin may be involved. Bulimia is also often present alongside other mental health problems, for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and anxiety.
It may be possible to avoid or address potential risk factors before bulimia is established. These include social and cultural pressures regarding appearance, bullying, low self-esteem and family dysfunction.
What’s the treatment?
With treatment, the priority is to re-establish healthy eating practices. Behaviour modification and distorted thinking about body image.
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