The Secret World of Bulimic People

Another holiday is over and another massive meal is under your belt. Oh yes, what you and your family have consumed probably would have fed a small, third-world nation for at least a month. After the dishes are cleared, you flop into the armchair in the living room, and you probably will not move for the rest of the night. However, if you suffer from Bulimia Nervosa, none of this happens when you overeat, and you overeat every day, sometimes several times a day.

For bulimics, there are no sighs of satisfaction, no feelings of being pleasantly full. There is only self-hatred for your inability to control your eating. You have to get rid of what is making you despise yourself, so you purge your body of the food by causing yourself to vomit, you abuse laxatives and diuretics, and you exercise frantically to avoid more weight gain. This is the secret world of bulimic people.

Battling bulimia - one woman's struggle with the disease

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Version Four, Text Revised (DSM-IV-TR), the following behaviors are the diagnostic features of Bulimia Nervosa, paraphrased;

  • Frequent binges of very large amounts of food
  • Lack of control over food.
  • “Secret” eating
  • Never binging when others are present
  • Hording food to eat alone.

After binge eating, the person then proceeds to engage in compensatory behavior by inducing vomiting, chronic abuse of laxatives and diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercising. Binge foods include great quantities of sweets and other carbohydrates. Binges are rapid – food is consumed very quickly. Intense feelings of shame, guilt, and self-disgust about binges are a direct result.

Co-existing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety manifest themselves. Purging by vomiting provides relief from the physical discomfort of binge eating; vomiting is induced with fingers, an instrument such as a spoon, or ingesting Ipecac syrup. After an intense binge-purge episode, there may be total fasting for a day or two, combined with excessive, frantic exercise. The binge and purge cycle begins all over again.

Not all bulimics go through the binge/purge cycle.

Non Purging Bulimia

There is a secondary category of bulimics called “non-purging”. Non-purging bulimics can be overweight or of normal weight; the former is obsessed with losing weight and the latter is deeply afraid of gaining weight. Non-purging bulimics will frequently binge but rather than purge, they will frantically exercise the calories off and then fast for several days before starting the cycle all over again.

Bulimics wage a war against themselves and food everyday. The only thing a bulimic hates more than his or her own self is food. Binge eating and purging is not fun, and no one who is bulimic is binging and purging because it’s enjoyable. A bulimic feels powerless to control anything, and the only way they will stop their behavior is if they reach an understanding that they do have the power to change.