Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of binge eating and self-induced vomiting. The individual with bulimia may also show compensatory behaviors such as not eating to counteract the effects of binge eating. The effects of bulimia on the family can be overwhelming. The individual with bulimia will go to great lengths to hide their binge eating and self-induced behaviors that prohibit weight gain. From the family’s perspective, they may feel unable to help and have corresponding feelings of helplessness and frustration. They also feel depressed as they watch their family member spiral out of control.
Binge eating is what the individual does but it is only the beginning of living with someone who is bulimic. These individuals will buy bags of groceries and typically hide the food in a private location. If a family member finds their secret stash, the individual will lie about the reason the food is hidden. The individual may even offer the family member some of the food to keep quiet and not tell other family members. This works well especially with younger siblings. If their food is stored in a family area, the bulimic might get upset when someone has eaten their food. These can turn into arguments that might escalate to serious altercations.
The individual with bulimia may consume thousands of calories at one sitting. Often the calories come in the form of high-sugar foods and carbohydrates. It is not uncommon for the individual with bulimia to consume upwards of 30,000 calories per day. The individual does not necessarily eat all of these calories at one sitting but may opt to spread them out over the course of the day. Individuals with bulimia prefer to eat without anyone watching them and they do not like eating in restaurants. They may feel that others are watching and know on some level what they are doing. The individual with bulimia may spend hours alone in a private room eating bags of candy and potato chips. Social isolation is also a problem for individuals with bulimia as they simply do not want to be around others especially when there might be food present.
Self-induced vomiting typically occurs after the individual binge eats. They can spend an inordinate amount of time in a bathroom trying to cover up the vomiting behavior. The individual with bulimia will often run a shower or tap to hide the sounds of vomiting. They certainly do not want others to know what they are doing. Often, they will clean the restroom and use air freshener to hide the scent.
Bulimia affects the entire family and many times the feelings of anger are simply due to an overarching feeling of helplessness. The family wants to help but they simply do not know how. If you are living with someone with bulimia nervosa, seek treatment now. This is a dangerous disorder that has multiple layers of health consequences. The family of the bulimic needs to also engage in treatment to help better understand the behaviors and risk factors associated with bulimia.
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