Is Bulimia Counseling Right For Me?
Your weight is just a number; but for many of us, that number can become a valuation of your self-worth. When you’re losing or maintaining weight you feel like you’ve accomplished something—maybe not as much as you’d like—but you feel a little less terrible.
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by over-eating (bingeing) and extreme efforts to maintain weight through vomiting or laxative abuse (purging). However, unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia does not usually result in extreme weight loss.
Bulimia doesn’t always begin in a discrete moment. Instead, the condition tends to evolve slowly over time as our attitudes about our bodies shift, distort, and entangle with how we define ourselves. Sometimes bulimia develops because we place a high premium on seeming “perfect”. Other times our negative self-evaluations of our bodies can whisper to us that certain body types are more deserving of love than others. We might have issues controlling our impulses, or a need to control our lives so badly that it overrides our reason. And in instances yet beyond, we may absorb subtle messages from our families, culture, coaches, peers, and mentors that intertwine beauty inextricably with thinness.
Regardless of its origins, however, bulimia is dangerous. Repetitive vomiting and laxative abuse can overtax the heart and gastrointestinal systems, resulting in a series of potentially fatal consequences.
But don’t abandon hope: you can beat the cycle of bingeing, purging, and self-loathing!
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Bulimia?
Individuals who are suffering from bulimia may exhibit the following warning signs:
- Episodes of binge-eating (consuming an entire day’s worth of calories in a single sitting) followed by frantic attempts to purge (via vomiting, laxative, enema, or diuretic abuse), fasting, diet pills, emetics (drugs that induce vomiting), or obsessive exercise
- A distorted body image concerning weight and excessive feelings of guilt following a binge
- Hoarding food, concealing your binge-eating episodes from family or friends, engorging yourself on food to the point of physical pain or sickness
- Leaving during meals to purge in secret (Individual may drink excessive water prior to exiting from the table to make the process of inducing vomiting easier, or leave water running during purging to muffle the sound)
- Discrete, public vomiting
- Physical indicators of self-induced vomiting, including: tooth decay, swollen gums or cheeks, ulcerated areas in the mouth that do not heal, evidence of ruptured blood vessels on the face, lesions or calluses on the fingers, dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, fainting, or irregular heart rhythm
- Psychological indicators of co-occurring anxiety, depression, social isolation, personality or mood disturbances, impulsivity, or substance abuse
What Are The Long-Term Health Consequences Of Bulimia Nervosa?
Unlike Anorexia Nervosa, individuals with bulimia typically fall into a normal or above normal weight range. This doesn’t mean, however, that because the health risks associated with being underweight are absent in bulimia that the condition is not serious: Bulimia can be very dangerous!
Serious complications of bulimia may include:
- Cardiac problems: irregular heart rhythm, heart damage, cardiac arrest
- Electrolyte imbalances, including hypokalemia (loss of potassium from purging methods that leads to heart failure)
- Kidney failure (from dehydration/electrolyte imbalances that occur simultaneously with vomiting, laxative, or diuretic use)
- Gastrointestinal problems: deadly ripping of the stomach lining from binge-eating, constipation, or GERD—gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Esophageal rupture from over-induction of vomiting
- Osteoporosis (occurs when a calcium or Vitamin D deficiency associated with bulimia causes accelerated bone loss and deaccelerated bone repair in middle age, as well as an increased risk of bone fracture)
- Edema, or swelling in the abdomen
- Dental problems: bleeding gums, tooth decay, TMJ, oral sores, etc. & increased risk of esophageal cancer
How Can Bulimia Counseling & Therapy Help My Condition?
If you think that you might have bulimia nervosa, don’t delay in seeking treatment! Without qualified intervention, your bulimia could spiral out of control, disrupting your happiness and damaging your health. A strategic treatment plan for bulimia should concentrate chiefly on recovering your health—before shifting focus toward re-claiming your life.
- At the outset of your treatment, your medical needs should be of primary concern. Prolonged cases of bulimia can result in sudden cardiac arrest, permanent infertility, esophageal hemorrhaging (from induced vomiting), tearing of the stomach lining (from binging), or death: So, early medical intervention to assess your health status is essential!
- Next, you therapist will encourage you to evaluate your thoughts about your weight and emotions associated with food. Your therapist may recommend individual or group therapy sessions; meeting with a nutritionist to assess your dietary needs; or family or couples counseling to assist your family members and romantic partners in supporting you effectively during your recovery process
- A successful therapy plan should also equip you with coping mechanisms to combat your impulses to binge-eat or purge; and should help you achieve an awareness of the underlying factors that may perpetuate your condition (for example: being teased about your weight as a child or absorbing parental attitudes about food from a caregiver who also had an eating disorder)
- In addition, the Lifeologie Institute offers psychotherapeutic yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and equine therapy for those who wish to explore alternative treatments for bulimia as a creative supplement to traditional therapy techniques.