Eating disorders such as bulimia affect mainly people in the western world. Eating disorders can be associated with low, normal or overweight. Bulimia mainly affects young women. Despite great health risks and high suffering, bulimia often remains undetected for a long time. Therefore, it is important to learn more about the background of the disease, the symptoms of bulimia and the appropriate treatment recommendations.
What is bulimia?
Bulimia is an eating disorder. Bulimia describes a disease that causes increased binge eating and often deliberate vomiting of food. According to technical definition, the disease is called Bulimia nervosa. In German bulimia is also the term eating-crushing addiction common.
Other eating disorders include anorexia, also known as anorexia or anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder (food addiction). An atypical bulimia nervosa is present if not all criteria for the diagnosis of bulimia apply.
What are signs of bulimia?
Typical symptoms of bulimia are vomiting and eating or eating attacks. In some cases, it also comes in the meantime to weight loss and weight loss. However, this is often not the case because of binge eating, so one criterion for bulimia is a normal or elevated BMI (BMI> 17.5).
On the other hand, if the BMI is below 17.5 and, at the same time, there is an atypical anorexia attempted with the help of vomiting or medication.
Episodes of bulimia
Bulimia often causes acid-related disorders in the mouth due to vomiting. So it can come in the mouth and throat to sore or inflamed areas and the enamel are attacked. How the teeth can be protected should be discussed with the treating dentist in individual cases.
Because the loss of nutrients and vomiting important nutrients can be lost, frequently occurs in people affected by eating disorders hair loss.
Criteria for making the diagnosis
The following criteria and symptoms are decisive for the diagnosis of bulimia:
- frequent binge eating (at least two a week over three months or more)
- Essanfälle mostly in secret and alone
- Greed for food and ongoing occupation with the topic of food
- Avoiding weight gain due to: self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives, diuretics or thyroid medications
- in self-perception, one's own body is classified as too thick
What is bulimia doing to the body?
Due to the frequent vomiting the body loses a lot of acid. However, to produce enough stomach acid, important salts are removed from the blood. In extreme cases, this can go so far that the salt balance of the blood mixes up. This creates the risk of cardiac arrhythmia.
To avoid such life-threatening complications of bulimia, medical blood tests, especially with regard to the potassium level in the blood, necessary.
Causes: What can cause bulimia?
The disease peak is in the age group between 18 and 35 years. The causes of bulimia are very individual in each individual case. The question "How do you get bulimia?" is therefore not always the same answer. As with other eating disorders (anorexia, binge eating disorder), the triggers are varied and dependent on several factors.
The cause is usually a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental conditions. Genetically, the messenger serotonin seems to play a role. As an example of environmental conditions, the slimming ideal of our society can be called. In some cases, trauma can be found in the history of those affected. In some cases, there are also problems in emotion regulation with frequent mood swings.
Bulimia: Who is at risk? Who is affected?
There is no test that can show how high the risk is of getting bulimia. But generally, eating disorders seem to be more common in the Western world, where there is a food surplus. An increased risk of developing an eating disorder appears to be the following occupational groups:
- Ballet dancer / inside
- Flight Attendant / inside
- Athletes / inside
These can often be exposed to slimming pressure.
In addition, bulimia frequently occurs in connection with other mental illnesses.
Who diagnoses bulimia?
Eating disorders are either diagnosed by a doctor, usually a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist. In most cases, a doctor makes the initial diagnosis and then refers the person to a psychotherapist.
Who treats bulimia?
For the treatment of bulimia psychotherapy is necessary. This is usually done by a psychological or medical psychotherapist. Continuous medical and psychotherapeutic therapy is the best way to treat bulimia.
Here sufferers also learn what and when to beat the bulimia best should be eaten. Especially important are the daily structure and structured food.
In some refractory cases, bulimia also helps with drug therapy, such as the antidepressant fluoxetine, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI).
Suffering from bulimia: who helps?
Since bulimia often has a strong negative impact on physical health, medical co-treatment should generally be provided. Self-help groups or relatives groups can be a good help in therapy. There, exchanged tips and the cohesion of the group can protect against relapses.
On the other hand, blogs and forums are not recommended for self-help because they are not accompanied by specialist staff.
What do you do to help yourself?
In particular, bulimia is associated with long hours of starvation typical of bulimia. Long abstinence from food increases the susceptibility to binge eating: After periods of hunger, the craving for food at some point is so great that a binge of food can hardly be averted.
The next binge will then be followed again by a hunger period as punishment and with the aim of losing weight. This then programs the next binge and is a vicious circle that maintains bulimia.
What to do? Regular and structured food intake is crucial. This prevents binging and helps to maintain a healthy weight.
What happens after bulimia?
Often sufferers need a long time to seek help, because the topic of eating disorder is very shame for them. After successful therapy, many patients remain symptom free.
Other sufferers achieve symptom-free intervals alternating with relapses. A third group requires long-term therapeutic support if the symptoms of bulimia persist.