What Is Bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder with potentially serious and life-threatening consequences. It’s crucial for individuals to get treatment to address the underlying causes. However, bulimia symptoms aren’t always noticeable right away. Eating Disorder Solutions aims to change that by educating individuals and their families about bulimia and its signs and symptoms so that they can seek treatment for themselves or a loved one.
Simply referred to as bulimia, this eating disorder is characterized by binge eating and then compensating for the binge in some way. Binge eating involves consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time, while the compensation for the binge often involves self-induced vomiting or purging. Some individuals with bulimia use laxatives or diuretics to compensate for bingeing, while others excessively exercise or fast to restrict their calorie intake.
Since purging or burning all of the calories consumed is impossible, many individuals with bulimia end up gaining weight compared to what’s normal for their age and height based on health care standards. However, some individuals maintain their weight, while others become underweight.
Regardless of weight, it’s very unhealthy for individuals to continue this behavior. When the first bulimia symptoms develop, they require effective treatment from a team of specialists. Bulimia is more than a physical condition. It’s also a mental health disorder, so treatment revolves around addressing the distorted emotions and thoughts that individuals develop about their own bodies. Most of the time, they have a poor self-image and bad relationship with food.
The nurses, doctors, therapists and registered dietitians at Eating Disorder Solutions in Dallas, Texas, have the expertise to diagnose and treat bulimia. To support long-term recovery, our compassionate staff works with clients on a personal level to help them overcome the physical, emotional and mental issues that occur with the eating disorder.
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Common Bulimia Symptoms
Bingeing and purging can take a toll on individuals who develop bulimia. However, it’s not always easy to identify bulimia symptoms in the early stages of the eating disorder. In particular, the physical signs of bulimia can take some time to develop. Some of these physical symptoms include:
- Dental problems from purging
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Abnormal bowel function
- Constipation, acid reflux or other stomach issues
- Inconsistent or loss of menstrual periods
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle cramps and weakness
- Thinning hair
- Tingling hands or feet
In addition, several common behavioral and mental bulimia symptoms can develop. Mentally, individuals with bulimia have an obsession with dieting, body image and weight. On the behavioral side, they binge repeatedly and tend to lose control during those periods. Purging is the most common way that they try to rectify the large amount of food eaten.
At Eating Disorder Solutions, we take a look at physical, behavioral and mental symptoms to determine whether individuals have bulimia. After a full assessment of bulimia symptoms, we can help them choose the best level of care and the treatments that will allow them to heal properly.
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Warning Signs of Bulimia
Although it takes time for some bulimia nervosa symptoms to develop, it’s also difficult to identify the eating disorder because individuals hide the symptoms. Despite that, family members and friends can keep an eye out for this secretive behavior. For instance, individuals who are hiding bulimia symptoms may become socially isolated, anxious or depressed.
Also, family and friends might notice that their loved ones are more preoccupied with their weight and body shape than they used to be. Maybe they’ve developed a distorted or negative body image. These warning signs are most noticeable in conversation. For example, individuals with bulimia may often complain about how their bodies look.
Bingeing and purging are the most common signs and symptoms of bulimia with each behavior having its own red flags.
Bulimia Symptoms: Bingeing
During a binge, individuals eat too much food, usually in private. They might invade the pantry when they get home. Others might visit numerous fast-food restaurants in a row and secretly eat between each stop. The bottom line is that they feel compelled to eat more than they should. Some signs of binge eating include:
- Eating more than a normal snack or meal
- Eating to the point of physical pain or discomfort
- The feeling of being unable to control eating
- Hoarding or hiding food
- Making excuses for long absences from social gatherings, school or work
- Making excuses for missing money or food
Bulimia Symptoms: Purging
Because of their behavior during binge episodes, individuals feel ashamed and disgusted with themselves afterward. These feelings are accompanied with the need to purge the extra calories. In order to achieve that, they may force themselves to vomit or abuse diuretics or laxatives. As the eating disorder and bulimia symptoms worsen, they could develop a compulsion to purge after having a normal meal or small snack. Some signs of self-induced vomiting include:
- Calluses, scars or sores on knuckles
- Damaged gums and teeth from stomach acid
- Empty boxes of diuretic or laxative drugs
- Habitually visiting the restroom during or right after meals
- Persistent mouth or throat sores
- Puffiness in their cheeks from swollen salivary glands
- Raspy or scratchy sounding voice
However, not all individuals with bulimia purge or use diuretics or laxatives to eliminate consumed calories. Some of them exercise for hours on end to burn off the extra calories. Others go on crash diets or starve themselves to counteract the high calorie intake.
Since not everyone has the same bulimia symptoms, it’s crucial that they get a professional diagnosis. Family members and friends who notice the warning signs in loved ones should express their concern and offer help to find treatment.
Bulimia Treatment Programs
It’s necessary for individuals to get a quick diagnosis and treatment when bulimia symptoms arise. The reason is that they can develop serious complications the longer that they continue the cycle of bingeing and purging. However, they shouldn’t try to treat the eating disorder without professional care.
Eating Disorder Solutions is the ideal choice for bulimia nervosa treatment because we take a whole-person approach to healing. Unlike other facilities, we create personalized treatment plans that address the unique emotional and physical concerns of each client. We forge strong relationships and create an atmosphere of openness and trust.
Additionally, our treatment center offers an extensive set of programs in order to meet the changing needs of individuals as they progress toward recovery. We want to make sure that they get support and guidance every step of the way. In the end, our goal is to eliminate bulimia symptoms and prevent them from recurring so that individuals can live healthy lives.
Our residential program is the highest level of care that we offer, and our facility is one of very few that provide this level of treatment. It’s a structured live-in program in our home environment with 24-hour access to doctors, nurses and therapists.
During the program, individuals with bulimia symptoms participate in 8 to 10 hours of therapy each day. Our therapists use a range of counseling techniques in individual, group and family sessions based on each client’s needs. The program also includes nutrition education and meal support with our registered dietitians.
The amount of time that individuals spend in this program depends on how severe their situations are and how quickly that they heal. Because of that, some clients only spend a few weeks in residential treatment, but others need a few months.
Following our residential program, individuals can step down to our partial hospitalization program. It allows them to return to living at home while still getting guidance as they adjust to living outside of our facility. They visit our treatment center on five or six days a week for about five hours of therapy each day to hinder the recurrence of bulimia symptoms. Like our residential program, they participate in individual, group and family counseling and receive structured meals and nutrition support.
Taking another step down, our intensive outpatient program gives individuals more freedom. It allows them to apply everything that they’ve learned to real-life situations in order to prevent bulimia symptoms. However, we continue to provide support along the way so that they don’t become overwhelmed and revert to old habits. They’ll visit our facility three days a week for about three hours of counseling each day.
Once individuals are able to avoid bulimia symptoms without a strict therapy schedule, they can ask to enroll in our standard outpatient program. It includes one hour of therapy once or twice per week to keep them on track. The frequency of their sessions depends on their specific needs.