Choosing the Best Private Bulimia Eating Disorder Program
Someone with anorexia may be relatively easy to spot. These people are extraordinarily thin, and they may spend a significant amount of time talking about food and the caloric content of the foods they eat. While they may consider their disease to be a private matter, their behavior is often quite public. By contrast, you may be able to live with bulimia for months or even for years with no one suspecting that anything is amiss. Your weight might be within a normal range, and when you’re in public, you may not ever talk about food or restrict your eating in any way. It’s only in private, when you think no one is watching, that the true nature of your disorder becomes clear.
While it might be easy to hide your bulimia from those you love, doing so may have terrible consequences on your mental and physical health. Bulimia is a serious eating disorder, and the longer it goes untreated, the more likely it is that the behaviors you once considered under your control become more like persistent habits that are hard to break. By getting help, and sticking to a treatment plan, you can overcome bulimia, and the damage the disease causes can be healed.
It Can Happen to Anyone
Having bulimia can make you feel isolated. You might even feel like a “loser” that no one will ever love or respect. The truth is that bulimia can happen to anyone, and some of the most famous and respected people in society have had the disease in the past. This is just a sampling of famous people who have come forward and admitted that they had bulimia:
- Princess Diana
- Elton John
- Joan Rivers
- Paula Abdul
- Jane Fonda
These are not people who are unlovable, but at one point, their disease made them feel that way. These people recovered. You can do too.
Source: The University of Notre Dame
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Understanding the Cycle
Bulimia is considered a cyclical disease with three separate components: a binge followed by guilt and then a purge. While your cycle might significantly differ from these descriptions, a typical cycle is usually described in the following way:
- The Binge: According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc., a binge typically takes two hours or less. In this time, you eat a significant amount of food, perhaps thousands of calories, all in one sitting. You might feel as though this binging is completely out of your control, like someone is forcing you to do it and you absolutely cannot stop. While you could binge on almost anything, most people choose foods that are high in fat and/or high in calories.
- The Aftermath: After the binge is over, and you see all the torn wrappers and empty plates that held all the food you ate, you feel incredibly guilty. You might not understand what made you eat so much, and you may be desperate to ensure that no one ever finds out. You may throw wrappers away in public dumpsters, or pack them away in your closet. You might wash the dishes by hand, before anyone sees them. You might also be incredibly uncomfortable from the food you ate.
- The Purge: Eating so much food can cause you to gain weight, and you might be desperate to keep that from happening. In order to prevent the food from moving through your system, you attempt to purge by throwing up the food, or using laxatives or water pills to force food through your system quickly.
Why Don’t I Lose Weight?
People who have bulimia are often at a normal weight, or they might be just a little bit overweight. This might be frustrating to you, especially since you’re probably incredibly interested in the idea of losing weight and staying trim, but it’s important to remember that throwing up and purging aren’t effective in weight loss. The weight you lose with laxatives comes mainly from water loss, and water contains no calories. Similarly, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. reports that 50 to 75 percent of the calories you take in during a binge have already been absorbed by the time you vomit to purge. The methods used in bulimia won’t help you keep your weight down.
Bulimia is an incredibly common disease. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about two to three percent of young women develop bulimia. Men can also develop bulimia, and it can even strike people later in life. Some women in their 60s and even their 70s have been diagnosed with the disorder. While bulimia can happen to anyone at any time, there are some risk factors that could make you more likely to develop the disorder.
Bulimia is more common in people who have been through trauma or some sort of stressful event. If you’ve been sexually abused, or you’ve been physically assaulted, you may have extreme emotions that pop up that you’re not sure how to deal with. Those thoughts, and the terrible feelings of helpless and inadequacy that go along with them, could cause you to develop an eating disorder like bulimia.
In addition, some women develop bulimia through the influence of their friends. Teen girls, in particular, are impressionable and want to “fit in” with their friends. If you spend a lot of time with girls who throw up after eating, you might begin to think it’s a good thing for you to do too, and over time, you might become impressed with your ability to binge and purge. Similarly, if you have a parent or a sibling with bulimia, you might be more likely to develop the disease yourself, as you may grow up listening to, and absorbing, unhealthy ideas and opinions regarding weight and weight loss.
Spotting Signs in Someone Else
If you think someone close to you has bulimia, but you’re not quite sure, these common warning signs from the Mayo Clinic may be helpful. People who have bulimia tend to:
- Go to the bathroom in the middle of, or right after, eating a meal
- Have scars or sores on their knuckles or hands, due to acid from the stomach and contact with the teeth when they vomit to purge
- Have bad breath
- Have teeth that seem clear
Damage Bulimia Can Cause
Leaving bulimia untreated can have serious consequences on your long-term health. If you purge by vomiting, for example, you can cause permanent damage to your teeth. The acids in your stomach can wear away the enamel in your teeth, leaving them soft and weak. Stomach acid can also cause your salivary glands in your cheeks and in your neck to swell. Vomiting also puts an extreme amount of stress on your esophagus, and some people who have bulimia actually tear the lining of the esophagus during a vomiting session.
Using laxatives or water pills is not safer than vomiting. As mentioned, laxatives tend to make you lose water. The drugs cause the intestines and the colon to contract forcefully, pulling water away from nearby cells and expelling it from the body. This sort of dehydration can cause you to lose necessary salts, and these salts are used by the body to communicate. Electrolyte imbalances like this could impact your heart, and your ability to think clearly.
If you have bulimia, you might also be at risk for other mental illnesses. For example, a study in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that people with bulimia also had other problems with impulse control. As a result, they were more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and they were more likely to steal than people who did not have bulimia. In addition, these people also performed self-mutilation acts, and they had attempted suicide. Mental illnesses like this can be successfully treated, and when the pain abates, you may feel less likely to self-medicate your pain with bulimia.
Is Bulimia Chronic?
There is some evidence that suggests that people with bulimia tend to live with the disease for a long period of time. For example, a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that people with bulimia tended to have the disease for seven years. It doesn’t seem to be an illness that comes on suddenly and leaves just as quickly. Instead, it seems to be an illness that develops incrementally over time, and then takes time to abate. You can certainly heal, but you might need to devote many months to the effort.
How Is It Treated?
In order to recover from bulimia, you’ll need to understand why you feel the need to binge and purge, and you’ll need to come up with other things you can do when the urge begins to strike. Putting together a list on your own at home may not do the trick. Instead, you’ll need to work with a licensed therapist who can help you untangle your thoughts and come up with workable solutions. You may go through cognitive behavioral therapy, in which you examine your thoughts and come up with methods to unpack the negative thoughts that drive you to binge.
You might also perform homework sessions in which you perform acts like eating just one cookie, and then holding the others in your hands without eating them. Using breathing exercises, art therapy and/or meditation while you’re hit with a craving may help, and those are techniques you may also practice while in therapy.
Sometimes, your family will need to come to therapy with you. This may be particularly important if you’re a teen still living at home, as your parents may play a big role in helping you to eat normally while you’re at home. In your group meetings, you’ll all learn more about bulimia, and the things you can do as a group to help you stay healthy.
Sometimes, medications can help you feel less anxious and more likely to listen to the advice your therapist provides. The medications may cause you to gain weight, though, and going off the medication abruptly can be bad for your health. If you’re given medication for your bulimia, you’ll need to take it exactly as prescribed, and stay in touch with your doctor about how you’re feeling.
With therapy and/or medications, you can heal from bulimia. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that 50 percent of women were considered completely healed five to 10 years after therapy with about 30 percent relapsing from time to time. It is a difficult disease to heal from, but as these numbers make clear, it can be conquered. You’ll just need to take the first step and agree to get help. Please contact us today to find out more about programs that can provide help.