Bulimia nervosa is a prevalent eating disorder that can’t be identified just by looking at someone. For family members and others who are worried that their loved one has bulimia nervosa, it may seem like a challenge to determine if they need to seek out eating disorder treatment centers. Here, we’ll outline some common symptoms of the disorder that will help identify whether there’s a need for treatment.
Binge Eating Episodes
Bulimia nervosa is defined by a binge-and-purge cycle, where the individual eats large amounts of food in a short period, then purges the food out of a feeling of guilt or shame. The binge-eating episodes can be hard to notice, as many people with bulimia nervosa will sneak and hide food to eat it in secret.
With bulimia nervosa, the compulsive urge to eat and continue eating can become akin to an addiction – the disordered eating behaviors release dopamine, relieving stress and negative emotions. If loved ones discover evidence of binge eating episodes such as hidden food wrappers, they may need to speak with an eating disorder therapist.
The most common form of purging is self-induced vomiting, but other methods might be used. They include abuse of diet pills or laxatives, compulsive or excessive exercise, or fasting. Sometimes, all these methods may be combined. Some or all of these methods must be displayed consistently over a period of weeks to make a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa.
Unfortunately, as with binging, purging might be difficult to notice as many people keep this behavior secret. Loved ones should be on the lookout for extended trips to the bathroom, especially after meals, and keep an eye out for the signs of vomiting. Also, they should note any laxative use or discolored or calloused fingers, as those could also be signs of bulimia nervosa.
Negative Body Image
Bulimia nervosa is usually spurred in part by a negative body image. Not all people vocalize their dislike of their body shape, size, and look, however. As with other aspects of bulimia nervosa, people suffering from the symptoms might feel guilty or ashamed about their body or body image and will take steps to hide them.
However, there might be subtle signs to look out for. They may make disparaging comments about their body, saying “it’s just a joke,” or seem overly preoccupied with the way they look. They might avoid mirrors or spend a lot of time staring into them. If your loved one is showing signs of a distorted or negative body image, there is cause for concern.
Teeth and Gum Damage
When people with bulimia nervosa frequently self-induce vomiting, they cause extensive damage to their teeth and gums. The acidic material eats away at the tooth enamel, causing rot and decay. The gums can also suffer degradation if the person is not receiving proper nutrition due to the purging behaviors.
Family and friends may notice a rapid decline in the health of their loved one’s teeth and gums after bulimia nervosa symptoms arise. Visible decay of the teeth may be just the start, with excessive tooth loss to follow. If the frequent vomiting doesn’t cease, the tooth and gum damage will continue to worsen, resulting in the total loss of the teeth over time.
Depression and Anxiety
Eating disorders commonly co-occur with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. This is called a dual diagnosis, and it’s essential that bulimia nervosa treatment includes provisions for treating co-occurring disorders. When these issues arise, it is a sure sign that there is a need for support.
These mental health disorders are not necessarily linked to bulimia nervosa, but the chances of them occurring are much higher in a person with an eating disorder. Even if not, it is important to acquire care for mental health problems of any kind to prevent complications from arising. With help, it is possible to restore the mental wellbeing of people with and without eating disorders and improve their quality of life.
Finding Help for Bulimia Nervosa
When family members start to notice that something might be wrong, they can begin the tough conversations that could inspire change and healing. Their efforts can go a long way in motivating their loved ones to take control of their health and seek care at a bulimia nervosa treatment center.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
With 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach, and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment – go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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