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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.

Danger Signs:

eating uncontrollably

purging by strict dieting, fasting, vigorous exercise, vomiting or abusing laxatives

or diuretics

using the bathroom frequently after meals

preoccupation with body weight


mood swings

feeling out of control

swollen glands in neck and face



irregular periods

dental problems



sore throat

vomiting blood

weakness, exhuastion

bloodshot eyes


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.


Enslow Publisherd inc.


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