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An eating disorder is defined as an illness that causes serious disturbances to the person’s everyday diet – eating very small amounts of food, overeating, etc. Women, though generally believed, are not the only ones affected by an eating disorder. Men can develop the same disorders as women, though it is less reported. More importantly, eating disorders can include more than just anorexia and bulimia, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) is what we call eating disorders that aren’t bulimia or anorexia. EDNOS is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder.

Bulimia Nervosa – recurrent episodes of eating an unhealthy, large amount of food with a lack of control over the appetite. The two types of bulimia – purging and non-purging – are similar in character, but have different methods of dissolving the calories and weight. Purging usually involves the abuse of laxatives, enemas, and diuretics to induce vomiting or increase the speed of the digestive system and non-purging can involve a range of different practices from fasting and extreme dieting to an unhealthy obsession with exercising.

What Causes Bulimia?

It is believed that the root cause of most eating disorders, including bulimia nervosa, is the societal pressures placed on men and women to have the “perfect body.” However, it’s actually a very complex combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological and societal factors. Some difference in brain activity suggest that – neurologically – some women are unable to overcome an impulsive response, and family-based treatment in children was a more effective treatment than supportive psychotherapy that didn’t directly mention the disorder, as noted in the Dietician’s Guide to Eating Disorders.

Societal pressures do cause symptoms of depression and anxiety that could lead to the development of an eating disorder as a way to fix the person’s current state. The belief of, “If I just throw up/exercise a lot/diet strictly, I can look like (insert celebrity name).” Although looking a certain way in order to obtain a perceived elevation in attraction is associated with women primarily, men can also develop the same eating disorders, as well as other disorders such as muscle dysmorphia.

Signs & Symptoms: Am I Bulimic?

Bulimia has a wide range of symptoms and effects on the body, including mental and emotional health, digestive, circulatory, and reproductive system can all be effected. Specific signs and symptoms include:

  • Lack of control while eating
  • “secret eating”
  • Overeating then fasting
  • Going to the bathroom directly following a meal
  • Obsessive exercising
  • Not Underweight – generally people who have bulimia will be average weight to somewhat overweight.
  • Discolored teeth

It is important to know the symptoms, and catch the disease before serious effects can occur such as tooth decay from excessive vomiting, weakness and dizziness from burning more calories than consuming, or even a ruptured stomach.

Ask yourself, do you obsess about your body weight? Do you eat until you feel nauseous? Or do you feel ashamed after eating? If the answer is yes to these questions, you may have an eating disorder, though not conclusive.

How Do I Get Help?

The first step to getting help for any addiction or eating disorder is to admit that you have a problem, and commit yourself to riding your life of it. Speak to someone you trust, and that will help you find professional help and keep you on track. Don’t go back to people, places, or things that make you feel the way you did when you developed the disorder. Finally, speak to a professional. The sooner you get help for an eating disorder, the sooner you can recover.