The American Addiction Centers says that about 4.7 million females and 1.5 million males in the U.S. have bulimia. It’s a potentially fatal mental health disorder that involves binge eating a large amount of food and then vomiting it after. The center says patients often feel significant remorse after their binge and their purge manifests in different ways, apart from self-induced vomiting. It can take the form of prolonged starvation or the use of laxatives regularly.
However, a newer form called “exercise bulimia” has been identified by experts. According to a Healthline article on the disorder, exercise bulimia involves overexercising to burn calories from a binge session. If you think your loved one has exercise bulimia, here’s what you can do to help them.
Know the Symptoms
Part of helping your loved one deal with exercise bulimia is by understanding its symptoms. The Healthline piece, medically reviewed by the University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine, says you should look out for warning signs like worrying too much about working out.
While exercise may be a healthy activity, symptoms like being obsessed with calories burned during a workout, worrying about their body’s appearance too much, and getting angered when they miss a scheduled exercise session. Apart from the direct symptoms, the article also says that overexercising may cause an absence of menstruation among women. Cardiac issues like arrhythmia are also possible because of the stress it causes on the heart.
An Esquire article chronicling the author’s struggle with exercise bulimia cited the link between this disorder and body dysmorphia. He stated that male weightlifters often obsess over feeling too skinny. They push themselves to work out to feel that they’re developing their body into an adequate image. In other words, masculine. Jennifer Rollin, the psychotherapist the author interviewed, said that this way of thinking is dangerous, especially for those who have underlying inclinations to overexercising or eating disorders.
Peaceful Acknowledgment and Suggestions
Apart from getting mad about missed exercise sessions, people who have exercise bulimia feel angry when people call them out because they overexercise. As hard as it is to understand, you shouldn’t antagonize your loved one for their disorder. You’ll only push them away. Understand that they mostly have little to no control over their behavior.
Rollins says that one of the few ways people can deal with their exercise bulimia is by setting workout goals. If you sense that they’re overworking themselves, ask them to listen to their body and slow down to avoid hurting themselves. Once they realize that they might get seriously injured, suggest a more manageable routine. This may help them realize their problem and de-escalate their exercise habits.
When to Get Professional Help
If they still aren’t listening to what you say or relapse immediately after taking your suggestions, it may be time to recommend going to a therapist. This way, they get to learn from a professional how to cope with their condition.
A therapist, psychiatrist, and dietitian can help them become better at managing their relationship with food and exercise, according to another psychotherapist, Kate Rosenblatt, in an interview with Men’s Health. A mental health expert can address underlying issues linked to the disorder, such as anxiety and mood disorders, by creating a bulimia treatment plan.
As the saying goes, too much of anything is bad for you — even if it’s a beneficial activity like exercise. This disorder may lead to serious physical injuries due to overworking, an unhealthy reproductive system, and heart problems. Help your loved one by understanding their situation, de-escalating it, and calling a professional when worse comes to worst. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it’s better when you have someone to run (or walk) with you.
Find the Right Treatment Center
The Healthline article about exercise bulimia says that cognitive behavior therapy is also effective in addressing the symptoms of this disorder. Here at The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health, in Westport, CT, we offer treatment programs for eating disorders like binge eating and bulimia, which include cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy. Our experts help patients identify and understand the underlying problems behind their condition and equip them with healthy coping skills.
Contact us today to find the best treatment plan for your loved one.