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Bulimia (oxlike hunger) can be more difficult to detect than anorexia because many girls
and women with this disorder maintain a normal body weight. They consume large
amounts of food, sometimes up to 5,000 calories worth, then purge themselves of the
excess calories. Some do so by inducing vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, taking
enemas, fasting or exercising obsessively. The condition tends to become most serious in
late adolescence, but can develop at any age from early adolescence to age 40.
Bulimia is believed to be much more common than anorexia; as many as 10% of women
may suffer from bulimia at some time in their lives, though it typically begins during
adolescence. Like the anorexic, the bulimic usually is attempting to control weight.
Over time, purging can become a destructive, uncontrollable process. Physical effects can
be serious. Frequent vomiting can cause damage to the tissues of the throat and
esophagus, and to the teeth. Bowel, liver and kidney problems, dehydration and seizures
are also possible. Electrolyte imbalance resulting in a risk of cardiac arrest is another
Many people who have bulimia do not seek help until they reach their thirties or forties.
By this time, their eating behavior is deeply ingrained and more difficult to change.
purging by strict dieting, fasting, vigorous exercise, vomiting or abusing laxatives
using the bathroom frequently after meals
preoccupation with body weight
feeling out of control
swollen glands in neck and face
WHAT CAUSE EATING DISORDERS?
Experts believe that more and more young people are developing eating disorders, but
they are not certain why. Biological, psychological and social factors all play a part.
Some scientists believe that genetics are partly to blame since eating disorders tend to run
in families. Authorities at the University of Illinois point to evidence suggesting that
eating disorders result from an inherited predisposition to mood swings and depression.
Other evidence reveals an increased incidence of major depression and alcoholism in
blood relatives of persons with bulimia or bulimic variations of anorexia nervosa.
Specialists from the UCLA Eating Disorder Program and elsewhere create a profile of the
anorexic girl as intelligent, compliant, and perfectionist—a “good girl” who usually
attempts to please others while battling with low self-esteem. Often, she is struggling
with conflicting feelings about puberty, sexuality and maturity.
Low self-esteem is also a problem for people with bulimia, but they tend to be less
passive and more socially active. However, they may suffer from high levels of anxiety,
using the binge-purge cycle to relieve stress. They may be using food for comfort, paying
a price of guilt and shame later.
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