Bulimia: warning signs and prevention

Bulimia: warning signs and prevention
Extract from the article: On June 02, the world celebrates World Eating Disorders Day. Eating disorders are common psychiatric illnesses that should not be confused with, for example, loss of appetite, snacking or dietary restrictions. However, according to recent epidemiolog

On June 02, the world celebrates World Eating Disorders Day. Eating disorders are common psychiatric illnesses that should not be confused with, for example, loss of appetite, snacking or dietary restrictions. However, according to recent epidemiological studies, almost 20% of the world's population suffer from more or less severe eating disorders. In eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, the relationship with food is disrupted. Medically recognized, these disorders are potentially fatal and require appropriate multidisciplinary care. In this article, Santé-Education focuses on bulimia.

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by the recurrent occurrence of binge eating episodes associated with compensatory behaviors such as vomiting or taking laxatives. If patients ingest large quantities of food, they do not gain weight. But moral suffering and somatic complications are at the heart of the disease.

Physical health consequences

Binge eating and, above all, the associated purging behaviors, can lead to severe complications for the body: reduced heart rate or bradycardia, hypotension, bone loss nutritional deficiencies leading to: mood and attention disorders, persistent fatigue, irregular menstruation.Low levels of electrolytes, the chemical elements such as potassium, sodium and magnesium needed to balance fluids and salts in the body, and disorders of the digestive and renal systems.

Causes and risk factors

Bulimia is an illness with a multi-factorial origin: firstly, there is an underlying psychological vulnerability.Indeed, people with bulimia often have a large number of associated psychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder or substance abuse.

Other environmental factors may explain the onset of bulimia: the patient's family and social environment. Peer pressure to fit in, dieting and the media's emphasis on thinness can all contribute to the onset of bulimia.Certain environments or activities, such as participation in body-centered sports like gymnastics, are other factors that can put pressure on a child or adolescent to lose weight. Vomiting during illness can also be a trigger.

Recognizing a bulimic attack

A bulimic attack is recognized by the absorption of a large quantity of food in a limited period of time.This quantity of food is far greater than most people would consume in a similar period of time and under the same circumstances. The foods chosen may be foods enjoyed by the patient (usually very fatty and very sweet).

During the attack, the patient experiences a sense of loss of control over her eating behavior (feeling unable to stop eating, or unable to control what or how much she eats).

The patient eats rapidly without stopping, to the point of experiencing a painful sensation of abdominal distension.Food intake does not always respond to a feeling of hunger, or even sometimes to a real craving.

Most of the time, patients isolate themselves with large quantities of food so as not to feel embraced by the gaze of others during an attack, or to avoid being disturbed.

After a crisis, patients often feel disgusted with themselves, depressed or very guilty. These feelings are at the root of compensatory behaviours, but can also lead to low self-esteem, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Prevention and treatment

To prevent the onset of bulimia or its rapid progression, it's essential to consult a specialist (psychologist, psychiatrist, child psychiatrist).Early diagnosis improves prognosis and promotes recovery.The longer the pathology evolves, the greater the risk of complications, relapses and somatic, psychological and social after-effects. The treatment of bulimia relies on: psychiatric or psychological follow-up and nutritional monitoring to help the patient relearn how to eat in a balanced way.

William O. 

Article validated by Dr Essoreke Tchaou, Nutritionist-Dietician, Lomé

Author
sa
Editor
Abel OZIH

On June 02, the world celebrates World Eating Disorders Day. Eating disorders are common psychiatric illnesses that should not be confused with, for example, loss of appetite, snacking or dietary restrictions. However, according to recent epidemiolog

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