Bulimia nervosa, commonly known as bulimia, is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder. It is characterized by a period of binge eating, followed by purging the previously eaten food. Very common in women, it can cause severe psychological strain as well as physical complications in the patient.
The exact cause behind bulimia is unknown. It may be due to a variety of biological, social and emotional factors. Some risk factors are:
- Female gender
- Young age
- Family history
- Mood disorder or other psychological issues
- Societal or professional pressure
Signs and symptoms of bulimia may include:
- Persistent pre-occupation with body weight or appearance
- Fear of gaining weight
- Binge-eating episodes
- Purging after binge eating using various methods: forced vomiting, use of laxatives, dietary supplements, etc.
- Exercising too much
- Having sores, scars or calluses on knuckles due to induced vomiting
- Damaged teeth and gums
A doctor can diagnose bulimia by conducting physical exams, ruling out other conditions by running various lab tests, and performing a thorough psychiatric evaluation in accordance with DSM -5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders)
Treatment requires aggressive psychological counselling and psychotherapies of the following types:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Family Based Therapy
Nutrition education and emphasis on healthy weight is of prime importance. Medications such anti-depressants can also be utilized and the patient can be hospitalized if needed.