A person diagnosed with bulimia (or bulimia nervosa) faces potentially life-threatening mental and physical risks, if not treated appropriately. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, only 1 percent of women and 0.1 percent of men in the United States have bulimia, but researchers dispute this as the real figure; like other mental health disorders, many choose to keep their condition a secret.
Bulimia stems from both mental and biological factors. If you or a loved one shows signs of bulimia, seek immediate medical attention to help treat the condition and prevent further damage to you or your loved one’s body and mind. Some of the symptoms listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 include:
- Evidence of recurring episodes of binge eating (e.g., large amounts of food disappearing)
- Evidence of purging and inappropriate behavior to prevent weight gain (e.g., induced vomiting, laxatives, fasting, excessive exercise)
- Uncomfortable eating around others, fear of eating in public
- Stained teeth
- Drastic weight changes
- Self-injury, substance abuse, and other signs seen in mental health conditions
Different studies have found many causes related to bulimia, which stretches to both one’s physical and psychological health.
Emotional Stress & Mental Health
There is no specific mental cause for bulimia; one of the usual reasons is it is a coping method for emotional stress. Although it starts as a coping method, it quickly develops into an uncontrollable habit. Often, bulimia appears in a person along with other mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, stress, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and others.
Body Image and External Factors
Many people find an irrational fear of weight gain and, as such, perform dangerous methods to avoid food intake and weight gain. Research has shown that environmental factors such as the media and fashion industry’s portrayal of beauty as well as sports or other sectors that emphasize weight loss affects one’s body image. However, while bulimia is linked to the fear of becoming overweight, researchers found it is more related to emotional and mental health.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not always about one’s body image. Bulimia also stems from external problems. Problems such as within one’s family trigger some patients to develop bulimia, which is why studies have found involving parents in adolescent bulimia treatment are far more effective than treatment where the patient alone undergoes therapy.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bulimia and other mental disorders seem to have a hereditary factor, as it occurs within families in between generations. Studies have not sufficiently proven if this is the work of people’s genetics or because of their shared environment, and it is a study worth investigating in the future.
Regardless of the cause, patients who have bulimia are at risk of several mental and physical disorders, which, if left untreated, can be fatal. Diagnosis is difficult because some people choose to hide their condition and symptoms. However, if they spot such symptoms, they should seek immediate care for their physical and mental state. The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health offers bulimia treatment in Westport that addresses the symptoms of the eating disorders, as well as their possible triggers.
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