Bulimia nervosa is one of the eating disorders identified by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by behavior to compensate for the excessive amount of food consumed. This also includes purging by means of self-induced vomiting, fasting, over-exercising, or the abuse of laxatives and diuretics to prevent gaining weight. The pattern of overeating and then purging can become compulsive, in some ways similar to an addiction to drugs.
Occurrence of Bulimia in Teens
The worldwide prevalence of bulimia cases in young females is estimated to be around 1% to 3%. However, a study found the symptoms of anorexia and bulimia to be present in up to 12% of women over the course of their lifetimes.
Most people with bulimia are women, but men can certainly struggle with this disorder. In fact, there is likely an underreporting of the condition, especially in boys and men.
Bulimia nervosa can be triggered by stress, ineffective dieting, or as an attempt to deal with painful emotions or impaired body image. Purging behaviors make bulimia harmful to the body. If you have any concerns your teen may be suffering from bulimia seek a professional evaluation from a physician or mental health professional.
Signs and Seeking Help
There is cause for concern if you witness one or more of the following symptoms:
- Eating a significantly larger amount of food in a limited period of time than most people would typically eat, known as binge eating.
- Feeling unable to control or stop eating once a binge starts.
- Continuing to eat even if feeling uncomfortably full.
- Expressing frequent concerns about body weight or shape.
- Experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety related to eating, body images, or weight.
- Purging food from the body after overeating to avoid gaining weight and as an attempt to regain a sense of control.
- Skipping meals or going on extreme diets to ‘make up’ for eating or overeating.
- Extreme fear of gaining weight.
- Using breath mints to cover up after vomiting.
- Unreasonably discontent with body size or shape.
- Use of diet pills or diuretics for weight control.
- Spending lots of time in the bathroom, usually throwing up.
- Excessive exercise, at inappropriate times or settings, or even when sick or injured.
Early diagnosis improves the chances for a teens’ successful recovery from an eating disorder. It may be hard to face the signs of bulimia in your teen, but it’s important to be vigilant in ensuring your child’s eating patterns are normal. It may be helpful for you and your teen to talk with your teen’s primary care physician about eating disorders, the signs you may be noticing, and potential ways to help.
The Impact of Bulimia on Troubled Teens
Bulimia can have a devastating impact on teens. It’s important to educate yourself and your teen about the harmful effects of bulimia on the body, mind, and soul. While a full recovery from the physical effects of bulimia can be had, the mental and emotional effects can last a lifetime. Here are the major health consequences of bulimia:
- Mineral or electrolyte imbalances
- Abnormal bowel function
- Destruction of tooth enamel
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Becoming moody or depressed
- Hormone problems
- Rupturing in the esophageal wall due to vomiting
- Cardiac arrest
A Word From Experts
Bulimia is a serious health condition that can have significant health consequences. Early intervention can help prevent many of these negative outcomes and increase the chances of recovery.
If you notice symptoms of bulimia in your teen, talk to your doctor about your next steps and treatment options.
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