What is Bulimia?
Bulimia is a complex mental illness, but it is treatable and with the right treatment, recovery is possible.
There’s no “right way” to have Bulimia, however, there are shared characteristics and behavioural patterns that help in the diagnosis of the illness. Often, people suffering with Bulimia eat large quantities of food – called “binging” – and then purge the calories from their system. Purging doesn’t always take the form of self-induced vomiting — a person can also rid their system of calories by fasting, exercising compulsively, or taking laxatives or diuretics.
For people suffering Bulimia, eating becomes a means of emotional release. It provides relief in times of stress but the subsequent purging, which satisfies their overwhelming urge to remove the calories, often leaves the individual feeling guilty and ashamed. The person feels a complete loss of control and suffers a good deal of stress as a result.
The symbolic acts of binging and purging can typically be seen in other areas of someone’s life. For instance, someone might restrict and binge on alcohol, drugs or sexual relations. Despite this, people who suffer with Bulimia are often high-functioning individuals who maintain a weight deemed “normal” and conceal their symptoms so the illness goes undetected.
Like other eating disorders, Bulimia can appear to be about food but is really caused by complex, underlying emotional issues that must be addressed in specialist eating disorder treatment.
It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you are concerned you or someone you care about is suffering with Bulimia. The eating disorder can lead to imbalances in body chemistry that affect the functioning of the heart as well as other major organs. The sooner you get help, the quicker and more sustained recovery is likely to be.
What causes Bulimia?
Like other eating disorder diagnoses, there is no one single cause. Rather, a combination of social, genetic and psychological factors that can contribute.
Common behavioural and psychological symptoms of bulimia
- Eating uncontrollably (binging) and/or fear of eating uncontrollably
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Petty theft to get hold of food to binge on
- Secretive eating and isolation
- Social erraticism —sometimes withdrawn, sometimes seeking approval
- Acts of self-disgust and self-harm
- Depression and other co-occurring conditions such as OCD
- Low self-esteem
- Preoccupation with body image and appearance
- Confusion about sexuality, or masking true feelings with promiscuity
Orri’s approach to treating Bulimia
Bulimia is often characterised by denial and resistance, so when a person comes to treatment, they have already taken steps towards their recovery which is important to recognise.
Often, people suffering with Bulimia struggle to manage their emotions in an appropriate and healthy way. As such, our multi-disciplinary team works with the individual to forge new pathways and healthy coping mechanisms, whilst addressing any co-occurring conditions which may fuel or exacerbate the eating disorder behaviours.
Like with other eating disorder diagnoses, Orri believes that recovery is possible and that treatment should heal the individual as a whole, embracing his or her complexity and unique history. We heal the underlying cause by providing individuals with the tools they need to recover – recognizing that everyone is different and therefore everyone’s experience of an eating disorder will be different.
Our particular area of focus is intensive day treatment through a stepped approach. By taking a stepped approach, we can provide the right level of support as individuals maintain their careers, go to school or university, and return to their lives alongside recovery. It’s this flexibility and emphasis on collaboration that makes our approach unique.