Bulimia is an eating disorder that affects millions of women every year, says Marla Ahlgrimm. It is characterized by binging on foods then purging them from the body by way of forced vomiting. Here, Ahlgrimm answers a few of the most common questions about this treatable condition.
Q: How are anorexia and bulimia different?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Anorexics are people, often women, who do not consume enough calories for their age and body shape. They are extremely thin and may be malnourished. People with bulimia, by contrast, often look healthy and fall within their normal weight range. Bulimics eat a normal diet, but go through periods of purging what they eat to “get rid” of the calories.
Q: Is bulimia a mental disorder?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes. Bulimics have an irrational fear of gaining weight but typically do not eat a balanced diet or will not exercise. They often experience depression and anxiety of their imperfect body shape. Body-biased media drives many young women into feelings of guilt over not having a shape like those displayed online and in advertisements. These women strive to live up to an often unattainable “airbrushed” reality.
Q: How does bulimia affect the body?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Women with bulimia are at a higher risk of hormone disorders and irregular periods. Constant self-induced vomiting may result in dehydration, intestinal issues, weakened heart muscles, esophageal tears, swollen cheeks, and ulcers. Bulimics may have poor dental hygiene and tooth sensitivity due to exposure to stomach acids.
Q: Is bulimia treatable?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Yes! Bulimics are treated by a combination of behavioral therapy, nutrition counseling, and prescription medications. Sometimes, antidepressants are prescribed to help the patient overcome feelings of depression and anxiety. It takes time but, with help and support, women can get better and experience better physical and mental health.