Bulimia Nervosa, like Anorexia Nervosa, is indiscriminate when it comes to gender, race, age or economic background. People with Bulimia may be older than those with Anorexia, and many experience symptoms of both conditions.
An intense fear of weight gain permeates bulimia, but its main characteristics are periods of binge eating. This is when the person will eat huge amounts of food quickly and without control. This can often amount to thousands of calories consumed in one sitting. These binges are then followed by a panic driven attempt to compensate for all the food eaten in order to prevent weight gain. The person may use a combination of self-induced vomiting or laxative/diuretic abuse in order to rid themselves of the binge – this is known as 'purging'. Other control methods such as extreme exercise or periods of starvation may also be undertaken.
The body weights of those with the condition may vary hugely, depending on the frequency of the binges and the relative effects of the bingeing and purging cycle.
While these eating patterns exist, the person may experience feelings of self-hatred, disgust and low self-esteem. Many people with Bulimia Nervosa also experience depression and poor mental health. Outwardly, the impression given may be one of confidence, competence and sociability. Even when people are showing signs of other distress such as depression, the Bulimia may be kept a secret.
Those who develop Bulimia have described 'an aching void inside', which is a hunger they try to fill with food. The desperate need to fill this emptiness and ease the pain may trigger a binge. As the food is consumed, it then becomes something disgusting and the person becomes equally desperate to expel it. Vomiting brings some kind of relief and some people talk of a feeling of purity once the food has gone. A temporary high may be experienced and then the feelings of self-disgust resurface.
- Weight may fluctuate or stay the same
- Sore throat
- Feeling out of control during a binge
- Constantly thinking about food
- Mood swings
- Excessive exercise
- A need for secrecy and deception
- Laxative abuse
- Irregular or lost periods
- Tooth decay
- Puffy face
- Swollen glands