What is Bulimia?

Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, is a psychological eating disorder. Bulimia is characterized by episodes of binge-eating followed by inappropriate methods of weight control (purging). Inappropriate methods of weight control include vomiting, fasting, enemas, excessive use of laxatives and diuretics, or compulsive exercising. Excessive shape and weight concerns are also characteristics of bulimia. A binge is an episode where an individual eats a much larger amount of food than most people would in a similar situation. Binge eating is not a response to intense hunger. It is usually a response to depression, stress, or self esteem issues. During the binge episode, the individual experiences a loss of control. However, the sense of a loss of control is also followed by a short-lived calmness. The calmness is often followed by self-loathing. The cycle of overeating and purging usually becomes an obsession and is repeated often.

Bulimia was only diagnosed as its own eating disorder in the 1980s.

People with bulimia can look perfectly normal. Most of them are of normal weight, and some may be overweight. Women with bulimia tend to be high achievers.

It is often difficult to determine whether a person is suffering from Bulimia. This occurs because binging and purging is often done in secret. Also, individuals suffering from Bulimia often deny their condition.

Sufferers consume huge quantities of food. Sometimes up to 20,000 calories at a time. The foods on which they binge tend to be foods labeled as "comfort foods" -- sweet foods, high in calories, or smooth, soft foods like ice cream, cake, and pastry. An individual may binge anywhere from twice a day to several times daily.

A Family Member has an Eating Disorder

If you have a family member that with an Eating Disorder then that family member needs a lot of support. Suggest that your family member see an eating disorder expert. Be prepared for denial, resistance, and even anger. A doctor and/or a counselor can help them battle their eating disorder.


There is currently no definite known cause of bulimia. Researchers believe it begins with dissatisfaction of the person's body and extreme concern with body size and shape. Usually individuals suffering from bulimia have low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and a fear of becoming fat.

Medical complications from bulimia?

·         Erosion of tooth enamel because of repeated exposure to acidic gastric contents.

·         Dental cavities, sensitivity to hot or cold food.

·         Swelling and soreness in the salivary glands (from repeated vomiting).

·         Stomach ulcers.

·         Ruptures of the stomach and esophagus.

·         Abnormal buildup of fluid in the intestines.

·         Disruption in the normal bowel release function.

·         Electrolyte imbalance.

·         Dehydration

·         Irregular heartbeat and in severe cases heart attack

·         A greater risk for suicidal behavior

·         Decrease in libido


·         Eating uncontrollably, purging, strict dieting, fasting, and/or vigorous exercise.

·         Vomiting or abusing laxatives or diuretics in an attempt to lose weight.

·         Vomiting blood

·         Using the bathroom frequently after meals.

·         Preoccupation with body weight

·         Depression or mood swings. Feeling out of control.

·         Swollen glands in neck and face

·         Heartburn, bloating, indigestion, constipation

·         Irregular periods

·         Dental problems, sore throat

·         Weakness, exhaustion, and/or bloodshot eyes

Risk Factors

There are certain professions where eating orders are more prevalent. Thinness is usually emphasized in these professions. The professions are: modeling, dancing, gymnastics, wrestling, and long-distance running.

Good news?

Bulimia can be overcome!


·         Bulimia affects about 10% of college age women in the United States.

·         About 10% of individuals diagnosed with bulimia are men.

·         10% of individuals suffering from bulimia will die from starvation, cardiac arrest, other medical complications, or suicide.

Bulimia in the News

In a new study, Dr. Walter Kaye, a University of Pittsburgh psychiatry professor, has found evidence that bulimic women have altered brain chemistry, possibly from birth, which puts them at higher risk for eating disorders even long after they’ve recovered from bulimia.

A new study adds to evidence that the eating disorder bulimia springs at least in part from a chemical malfunction in the brain and not merely from excessive desire to remain thin, researchers say.

What Is Anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder where people starve themselves. Anorexia usually begins in young people around the onset of puberty. Individuals suffering from anorexia have extreme weight loss. Weight loss is usually 15% below the person's normal body weight. People suffering from anorexia are very skinny but are convinced that they are overweight. Weight loss is obtained by many ways. Some of the common techniques used are excessive exercise, intake of laxatives, and not eating.

Anorexics have an intense fear of becoming fat. Their dieting habits develop from this fear. Anorexia mainly affects adolescent girls.

People with anorexia continue to think they are overweight even after they become extremely thin, are very ill or near death. Often they will develop strange eating habits such as refusing to eat in front of other people. Sometimes the individuals will prepare big meals for others while refusing to eat any of it.

The disorder is thought to be most common among whites, people of higher socioeconomic classes, and people involved in activities where thinness is especially looked upon, such as dancing, theater, and distance running.


There are many symptoms for anorexia; some individuals may not experience all of these symptoms. The symptoms include: Body weight that is inconsistent with age, build and height (usually 15% below normal weight).

Some other symptoms are:

·         Loss of at least 3 consecutive menstrual periods (in women).

·         Not wanting or refusing to eat in public.

·         Other symptoms are: anxiety, weakness, brittle skin, shortness of breath, and/or obsessiveness about calorie intake

Medical Consequences?

There are many medical risks associated with anorexia. They include: shrunken bones, mineral loss, low body temperature, irregular heartbeat, permanent failure of normal growth, development of osteoporosis and bulimia nervosa,  infertility and premature menopause, yellowing of skin, edema, diabetes insipidus (excessive urination), hypotension (low blood pressure), and/or abnormal hair growth. Death is possible in complex cases.

Continued use of laxatives is harmful to the body. It wears out the bowel muscle and causes it to decrease in function. Some laxatives contain harsh substances that may be reabsorbed into your system.

Anorexia and Pregnancy

In order to have a healthy child, the average pregnant woman should gain between 25 and 35 pounds. Telling this to a person with anorexia is like telling a normal person to gain 100 pounds. If you are anorexic, you may have trouble conceiving a baby and carrying it to term. Irregular menstrual cycles and weak bones make it more difficult to conceive. If you are underweight and do not eat the proper variety of foods, you and your baby could be in danger.

Women with eating disorders have higher rates of miscarriages and your baby might be born prematurely which puts them at risk for many medical problems.

All pregnant women should receive proper prenatal care. Those recovering from anorexia or bulimia need special care. You should always take your pre-natal vitamins and have regular pre-natal visits. You should not exercise unless your doctor says it is okay and it is a good idea to enroll in a prenatal exercise class to be sure you are not overexerting yourself.

Good news?

Anorexia can be overcome! With proper care, you can overcome your eating disorder and have a healthy child.


One percent of teenage girls in the U.S. develop anorexia nervosa and up to 10% of those may die as a result.

Difference between anorexia and bulimia?

The biggest difference between anorexia and bulimia is that people suffering from bulimia eat large amounts of food and then throw up. This is called binge and purge. Anorexics do not eat large amounts and throw up. Bulimics do.

If you or anyone you know has an eating disorder, call for help immediately.  You could save a life!

 Health Care Providers

The following providers treat people with eating disorders:

Dr. Knudsen, Dr. Danser, and Sharon Shumac MA, LMHC
(315) 788 3332                           (315) 376 5255
531 Washington St. Suite 2401      7785 North State St. Suite 101
Watertown, NY 13601                   Loweville, NY 13367

Four Winds Psychiatric Health System  --> www.fourwindshospital.com

(518) 584 3600                         (914) 763 8151
(800) 888 5448                         (800) 528 6624
30 Crescent Ave                       800 Cross River Rd.
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866        Katonah, NY 10536
Kate Doolittle –Social worker          Lorna Chase MFT
(315) 637 6029                           (315) 463 9355
303 Clinton St.
Fayetteville, NY 13066
Kathleen Deters-Hayes LCSW         Bridgett Hontley MFT
(315) 464 3179                            (315) 383 1556
750 E. Adams St.
Syracuse, NY 13210
Nicole Christina, LCSW                 Dr. Deborah Pollack PHD            
(315) 426 8330                           Clinical psychologist                      
1315 Westmoreland Ave.             (315) 472 7885                            
Syracuse, NY 13210 


739 Irving Avenue - Suite 530 Syracuse, NY 13210 Tel: 315-478-1158 - Fax: 315-478-3014

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