Bulimia nervosa is a cyclical and recurring pattern of binge eating (uncontrolled bursts of overeating) followed by guilt, self-recrimination, and overcompensatory behavior such as crash dieting, overexercising, and purging to compensate for the excessive caloric intake.
Some describe their binge episodes as feeling a physical high, numbing out, going on auto-pilot, losing control, etc. The specific reasoning or triggers differ from person to person. People with bulimia often have “binge foods”— the foods they typically consume during binges. Binging leads to feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and failure. Trying to regain control and make up for their binge, they then purge the food (any form of getting rid of the food consumed).
Compulsive, excessive exercising is a type of bulimia nervosa also known as anorexia athletica or exercise bulimia. Anxious and guilty until exercising, these individuals force themselves to work out even when sick or injured. They’ll often “exercise off” the calories they’ve consumed, leaving them depleted of energy. Being praised for looking good only spurs them on. Often developed as a way to gain control, this disorder is more common in women. Measuring self-worth through performance, they tend to take out their emotions—depression, frustration, anger—on their bodies.
The often extreme binge and purge cycles of those affected by bulimia are often echoed in other harmful behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, pathological lying, and shoplifting. Bulimia nervosa often appears during late adolescence or early adulthood. 90% of people with bulimia are women. The good news: roughly 70% of those affected by bulimia eventually recover.
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