Bulimia nervosa is a disorder characterised by repeated periods of overeating along with a strong sense of having lost control over an eating behaviour. The types can be divided into two parts. On the one hand, when an individual has actually eaten a lot of food, called an objective binge episode and, on the other hand, when it is only a person's feeling that they have eaten a lot of food when they actually haven’t, it is called a subjective binge episode. After each cycle of overeating, the individual tries to get rid of the calories they have consumed by using various repeated and unhelpful disposing methods to prevent weight gain. The prevalence of bulimia nervosa is 1-3%. Bulimia nervosa often begins at the age range of 15 to 29 years, but the onset of the disorder often starts following dieting attempts or stressful events.
How does bulimia nervosa manifest itself?
Individuals with bulimia nervosa eat within a certain amount of time (e.g. within two hours) a large amount of food, which is often calorie-rich. The amount of food goes far beyond what most people would generally eat during the same period under comparable conditions. Individuals experience uncontrollable eating behaviour during binge eating and this often leads to disgust towards themselves and they feel ashamed. Binge eating occurs more often than not in private, even sometimes at night, as individuals with bulimia nervosa are often ashamed of their eating habits. After binge eating, individuals with bulimia nervosa resort to methods to prevent weight gain. Measures such as induced vomiting, excessive exercise or exaggerated fasting (e.g. fasting for 24 hours) are used to clear out the calories. The binge eating and other methods occur at least once a week over a three-month period. Their self-esteem is abnormally dependent on body shape and body weight and they often experience a great fear of gaining weight.
Individuals with bulimia nervosa are often at or above the ideal weight but not underweight like individuals with anorexia. So it can sometimes be difficult for others who are around individuals with bulimia nervosa to see with their own eyes that there is an eating disorder. Symptoms or behaviour that can be noticed are excessive exercise, when a person goes to the toilet on a regular basis after meals and when fat-burning pills or other things are used with the goal to lose weight. Bulimia nervosa can lead to serious health problems such as damage to the oesophagus, arrhythmias, kidney disease and dental damage.