The core problem for people suffering from the eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa is an overvaluation of weight and shape and their control, such that self-evaluation is heavily or completely based on these features. The disorder involves extreme weight control behaviours, such as dietary restriction, excessive exercise, vomiting and/or laxative and diuretic misuse, and is associated with recurrent binge eating in which a large amount of food is eaten. The binge eating in Bulimia is accompanied by a sense of loss of control over the eating such that it is difficult for the individual to stop eating until he or she feels extremely full.
Recent research by the Victorian Government found that the incidence of Bulimia in the Australian population is about 5%, and two other Australian
Bulimia Nervosa - Overview
studies recently estimated that only about 10% of Bulimia cases are identified. The research shows that Bulimia sufferers typically hide the disorder for 8 to 10 years before seeking treatment, which of course has significant impacts on physical as well as psychological health. Depression and anxiety are common in Bulimia sufferers. On the positive side, well-researched effective treatments are available, and studies show that 70% of Bulimia sufferers who seek treatment report significant improvement in their symptoms.
Although binge eating can occur in all kinds of eating disorders, it is a prominent feature of Bulimia. Binges can be objective, in which the amount of food consumed is clearly excessive in relation to normal expectations of eating given the circumstances, or the binges can be subjective, in which the amount of food consumed feels excessive to the sufferer only. As mentioned above, binge eating is associated with a feeling of loss of control over the eating, which is particularly distressing for sufferers. Bingeing is often followed by so-called “compensatory” behaviour, which can take the form of self-induced vomiting and/or laxative and diuretic misuse, and engaging in excessive exercise. These behaviours are all attempts to "undo" any weight-gaining effects of the binge.
Research indicates that bingeing behaviour commonly occurs in response to four factors: hunger, dis-inhibition as a result of intoxication, the breaking of dietary rules, and “mood intolerance”. Please review other articles Help for Binge Eating, What is Emotional Eating?, and Treating Bulimia and Binge-eating with DBT for more information on how these factors affect binge eating.
Often sufferers of eating disorders feel considerable shame and embarrassment about their eating behaviour, and this can be a significant barrier to seeking help. If you or someone close to you experiences difficulties with disordered eating please consider making an appointment with me, in the knowledge that you will receive compassionate and experienced psychological help. I understand that you may feel distress or anxiety coming to your initial appointment, but I encourage you to try to keep in mind that I have worked with many people with eating disorders such as Bulimia, and that most of those clients struggled with very similar kinds of eating behaviours.