Health Check: Are You Suffering From This Life-Threatening Disorder?
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Eating disorders are both common and life threatening, and the solution to tackling them seems to lie in awareness. Do YOU have this disorder, and not know yet?
Bulimia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that is characterised by binge-eating and compensatory purging, intended to undo the effects of the food eaten. Bulimia is similar to anorexia in intention, meaning that in both cases the person is mortally afraid of gaining weight.
Recently, celebrities have started coming forward, talking about their eating disorders and how it affected them, in order to discourage the alarmingly growing trends of starvation and/or purging in youngsters. Demi Lovato, Kesha, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, and Katherine McPhee are some of the many well-known personalities who’ve admitted to suffering from the condition, having overcome it for good, and who now actively advocate healthy living with moderation, instead of extreme life habits that threaten you in the long run.
Bulimia is more common in women than in men, as is the case with most eating disorders; maybe because the society has always placed the pressure of looking good more on women than on men. About 9 out of 10 cases of bulimia are reported in women. On top of mental and emotional stress, this self-destructive pattern of binge-eating and then purging, using laxatives or self-induced vomiting, puts an enormous strain on the body as well. And even though in some cases, people with bulimia don’t look as emaciated as those with anorexia, the complications from it can be fatal:
- Electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration, and loss of potassium and sodium from the body.
- Irregular heartbeat, possible heart failure, and death.
- Tooth staining and decay, from the stomach acids that come in contact with teeth during vomiting.
- Irregular bowel movements and constipation, as a result of laxative abuse.
- Gastric rupture, a rare but possible consequence of binge-eating.
- Ruptured oesophagus, identifiable by blood in vomit.
- Low libido; and problems in conception in women.
Now that you know what it could do to your body in the long run, here’s how you can know if you are suffering from this life-threatening disorder.
- Swelling in the cheeks or jaw.
- Calluses at the back of the hand (because the acids from the stomach slowly corrode the skin of the hand that comes in contact with it while inducing vomiting).
- Discolouration of the teeth, or gum disease.
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and social gatherings.
- Continued excessive exercise despite illness or injury.
- An obsession with weight and food.
A general trend of weight loss that points at dieting, restriction, and drug/alcohol abuse is worth looking into for eating disorders.
Bulimia cases are a sensitive matter, and often need a combination treatment with antidepressants and psychotherapy. Family-based therapy for support and encouragement, and nutrition charts for a healthy weight and normal eating habits add to the overall effectiveness. Although most people recover from bulimia, it isn’t unusual if they relapse in phases throughout life, especially in high-stress environments. Often the relapses progress without detection for longer than the previous episode, and are only found out when it’s too late. In rare cases, the physiological damage from long-term bulimia becomes irreversible, as in case of heart failure due to arrhythmia.
Even though the society seems to be doing its best to ensure that little girls grow up into insecure, self-destructive women, the times are slowly changing. It’s safe to say that it’s possible to change everything in the future by taking small steps now. If each of us propagates healthy living and a natural body instead of an artificially modified ‘perfect’ body, and if we set a good example for everyone else, then maybe 10 years down the line, we could appreciate a body for just being healthy.