Bulimia Nervosa - Description

Bulimia nervosa is a serious health problem for over two million adolescent girls and young women in the United States. In the most extreme cases, bulimia can cause severe bodily damage or even death. For example, in rare cases, binging can cause the stomach to break open. Purging can be dangerous because the body loses nutrients it needs to function properly. The loss of potassium, for example, can cause heart failure.

Vomiting is a common source of problems. When a person vomits, he or she brings up partially digested food and stomach acid. The acid is very strong and can burn the digestive tract, the mouth, and the lips. It can also damage the teeth. Binging and purging also disrupts the menstrual cycle.

Most bulimics know that their eating patterns are not normal, but they feel unable to change their behavior. Their binging and purging is done in secrecy so that family and friends often do not even know about their disorder. Some bulimics may turn to other ways of solving their problems, such as drugs and alcohol. Many develop other mental disorders, such as depression (see depressive disorders) and anxiety. In many cases, a physician or mental health professional must be consulted.

Most bulimics are females in their teens or early twenties; males of the same age range make up about 5 to 10 percent of bulimics. People of all races develop the disorder. The majority of bulimics who receive treatment, however, are white.

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