Bulimia is a condition in which the sufferer uses things like laxatives and vomiting to control the amount of food they put in their body. Bulimics can eat normal amounts of food or they can binge eat and consume extremely large amounts of food in one sitting and then they get rid of to avoid weight gain by throwing up the food or by excessive use of laxatives.
Less of the food taken in gets absorbed so the individual can develop symptoms of malnutrition such as fatigue and symptoms related to electrolyte disturbances. Some bulimics abuse various kinds of diet pills and some will fight their fatigue by exercising compulsively so that weight loss can be promoted.
The Medical Effects Associated With Bulimia
Bulimia can result in side effects much worse than fatigue. Inpatient hospital care is often necessary when the condition gets out of control. Untreated bulimia results in death in many cases. It affects the individual’s hydration status resulting in dehydration, magnesium deficiency, potassium deficiency, and sodium deficiency.
Hypokalemia can result in heart arrhythmias and heart failure. Over the long haul, the patient can develop severe vitamin deficiencies and kidney failure due to dehydration. Liver dysfunction can develop as well.
Most people with bulimia have gastrointestinal complaints, such as severe diarrhea and even constipation. Those who vomit frequently will have an increased acid condition in the mouth so that the esophagus and teeth are damaged from the acid.
Stomach ulcers can develop and they often have severely uncomfortable mouth sores from elevated mouth acid.
Bulimic women are often infertile because the condition leads to hormonal changes that subsequently lead to irregular or even absent menstrual periods.
Bulimia and Fatigue
Bulimics tend to have a sense of overall fatigue that causes them to be unable to participate in normal daily activities. Generalized muscle fatigue is another common symptom. Because these individuals have an inability to participate in activities of daily living due to fatigue, they often become very withdrawn and lethargic. The body weight tends to be in the normal range because they keep their body weight normal by purging and taking laxatives. Some bulimics can actually be underweight, especially if they vomit after every meal and don’t take in enough nutrition.
The Psychological Effects Associated With Bulimia
Besides fatigue, bulimics suffer from extreme psychological symptoms. Many of these patients need to first be treated for their physical symptoms and then be treated for their psychological conditions, usually in an inpatient psychiatric center. After that, they go on to outpatient therapy to further their recovery. It is usually insufficient to simply concentrate on the physical symptoms of bulimia to the exclusion of the psychiatric symptoms. When the physical symptoms are handled, the psychological symptoms must be addressed.
Besides extreme fatigue, bulimics also have a higher risk of suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, and depression.
Besides therapy, bulimics may need to be on psychotropic medications for depression, anxiety or other psychiatric symptoms. The medications may help reduce the common feelings of shame, depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety. These symptoms not only lead to bulimia but also are the results of having bulimia.
Psychotherapy can help the bulimic’s obsession over their weight and their overall appearance. They may falsely believe that they are overweight when just the opposite may be true. With coping skills and other techniques, they can overcome their disease process and live a healthier life.
The Social Implications Of Bulimia
Bulimics tend to have not much of a social life because fatigue gets in the way of participating in social activities. They may lack the energy to be social with others. Instead of being social, the bulimic becomes increasingly focused on food and their weight. Relationships can be difficult to develop and maintain.
The fatigue can worsen and can become clinical depression. The bulimic often feels worthless and will suffer from a low self-esteem. Because of this, they feel withdrawn and socially isolated. This is why group therapy can be helpful for people with bulimia. In some cases, family therapy can help the family cope with the bulimic’s issues.
Bulimia is a very serious life-threatening condition. It is of utmost importance to make sure and get help as soon as possible.