If someone is suffering from bulimia, their binge eating is usually (but not always) triggered by emotions such as sadness and/ or stress when reminded of a particular situation or event. Depression is a strong underlying factor linked to eating disorders. Bulimia can be a common condition amongst those that experience bullying, feelings of worthlessness or loneliness, are in abusive relationships or experience other forms of belittlement.
The factors that lead to bulimia are incredibly complex and vary from case to case. Often the thought process of a bulimic is that they’re incredibly embarrassed and ashamed for their actions, especially if caught in the act of eating copious amounts of food. Their thought patterns are extremely destructive, often viewing themselves as incredibly weak, fat or disgusting.
For someone that has very low self-esteem, lack of confidence or have body-issues related to their appearance, they are more at risk of developing an eating disorder. The rise of social media and the illusion of perfection as displayed in photographs has also seen a rise in conditions such as bulimia.
If you’re concerned that someone close to you may be suffering from bulimia, you should look for the following signs:
- Obsession with body weight and appearance.
- Negative and self-critical comments surrounding their image.
- Abnormal and excessive exercising.
- Finding ‘secret’ stashes of food around the house or excessive junk food wrappers in the bin.
- Visiting the bathroom directly after eating or making constant trips to the bathroom.
- Unusual defensive behavior around the discussion of their eating habits or weight.
Loss of nutrients from consistent purging
Over time, frequent vomiting can result in a lack of nutrients being distributed and available for all the systems in your body. This includes calories, vitamins and minerals, and protein for growth and repair of all cells and tissues.
On top of nutrients lost in vomiting, nutritional levels are often very low, to begin with in the types of food binged on, and can be described as very refined junk food.
When the body does not receive an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals from the diet, there can be a multitude of complications, as the body has trouble carrying out its every-day functions. Many vitamins and minerals can only be obtained from food, and the body cannot produce these on its own.
Common signs of malnutrition from excessive vomiting, use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas include:
- Constant fatigue – With food being the main source of fuel for the body, constantly vomiting that food back up, takes away much needed fuel to function. You may feel like you’ve not had enough sleep and have zero energy in the body to go about your day and complete normal tasks.
- Irritability – Many vitamins and minerals are responsible for brain function and mood. However, vomiting can cause a major imbalance in chemicals, leading to unexplained bouts of anger or negative emotions. This can only enhance the feelings of helplessness and a feeling that there is no way out of your situation.
- Muscle weakness – Potassium is an important electrolyte often lost in vomiting. Potassium plays an important role in muscle function, with symptoms of an imbalance including cramping and uncontrollable spasms. Along with fatigue, you may feel you have no strength in your muscles and persistently low energy.
- Hair loss -Due to lack of intake of nutrients such as iron, zinc and certain B vitamins, hair loss is a common sign of malnutrition. Deficiencies in these groups of nutrients can affect the hair structure and result in the hair growing weak and thin, causing hair to fall out.
- Depression– While depression can be a strong underlying factor in bulimics, some vitamins such as vitamin D have been heavily linked to depression. Sufficient levels of vitamin D may not be obtained through diet in those that frequently vomit. Furthermore, as bulimics are known to isolate themselves from the outside world, they may also not be obtaining enough vitamin D from the sun. Clearly, this only exacerbates the feelings that are associated with depression, such as helplessness and an overwhelmingly bleak outlook on life.