4 Things People Still Get Wrong about Bulimia and Other Eating Disorders

sick woman

Eating disorders are one of the most common psychiatric illnesses in the United States. It affects over 30 million Americans, of which one in every 62 minutes will die from the illness.

Despite these numbers, many people, including sufferers, still have wrong ideas or misinformation about eating disorders. Correcting them can motivate them to seek the right kind of help:

1. Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Are the Same

It isn’t surprising for people to confuse bulimia nervosa and anorexia since these are two of the most popular types of eating disorders. They can also share similar signs and symptoms as well as causes, such as obsession or distorted concept of body image.

However, they significantly vary in manifestation. A person who is bulimic goes through a cycle of binge eating and trying to lose the weight either through purging or non-purging. Purging can include vomiting or drinking of laxatives, while non-purging might mean exercising excessively.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation or avoidance of food. They might also obsess with counting calories.

According to Johns Hopkins, anorexia can involve losing as much as 15% of the ideal body weight, while people with bulimia are usually of average weight or above.

2. Bulimia Affects Only Women

woman with eating disorder

Most people with eating disorders are women, but men can also develop this serious psychiatric illness. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, over 8 million males will suffer from it during their lifetimes. They also account for over 10% of cases, such as bulimia.

Men are also more likely to die from women for many reasons, one of which is stigmatization. Because of the belief that males should be tough and that eating disorders only happen to women, they might self-medicate or not even seek help at all.

Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, sexual identity, ethnic differences, educational background, and livelihood. Anyone who’s showing symptoms needs to get help right away.

3. One Treatment Is Enough

The path to healing any eating disorder isn’t straight. The probability of a relapse is high. Based on studies, a person with this condition could relapse within two years after treatment. The rate can be as high as 41%.

For this reason, the best treatment plan for bulimia nervosa or other eating disorders also includes post-treatment support. Health professionals monitor the progress of patients consistently and create customized programs to boost the chances of success and reduce the rate of relapse.

Personalizing or customizing the treatment plan is also essential to increase compliance of patients. Not all standard treatments will work well with patients.

4. People with Bulimia Have Poor Self-Image

While one of the hallmarks of eating disorders, such as bulimia, is a poor body image, it isn’t the only cause. Many factors can also increase the risk or cause these conditions:

  • Genetics – The idea that a person’s genes can increase the risk of eating disorders is still in its infancy, but more studies seem to support it. A 2007 research by Michigan State University associated it with a 50% risk of adolescent eating disorders. The chances of developing bulimia or anorexia also increase seven times for women’s relatives.
  • Brain Changes – In 2011, the University of Colorado-Denver researchers revealed that episodes of binging and purging could directly affect brain function. It could weaken the response to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates motivation and behavior.
  • Trauma – Many people with eating disorders have trauma as the root cause of their condition. Some experts believe that these terrible experiences could disrupt the way the nervous system manages or controls stress responses and emotions.

By laying down only facts about eating disorders, patients are one step to seeking the right help.

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