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Top Ten Facts about Teenage Bulimia

written by: N Nayab • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 11/24/2010

Teens gain body fat during puberty. Some teens, fearful of this change develop eating disorders. Bulimia is one such eating disorder where the teen eats large amounts of food in a short period and then purges the food by vomiting or taking laxatives. Read on for top ten facts about teenage bulimia.

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    Fact#1: People with Bulimia Follow a Binge Eat - Purge

    Teenage Bulimia People with teenage bulimia very often remain concerned about the size and shape of their body. They binge eat, usually high calorie and sweet foods, unable to restrain themselves. Later, concerned about putting on weight they engage in various activities such as vomiting, misusing laxatives, diuretics, fasting, or undertaking exercises to get rid of the excess calories gained due to the binge eating.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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    Fact#2: There are Two Types of Bulimia

    Teens experience two different types of bulimia:

    1. the purging type of bulimia where the person uses laxatives or diuretics, or induces vomiting after binge eating to remove the excessive calories from the body.
    2. the non-purging type of bulimia where the person fasts or exercises after binge eating to decrease weight.

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    Fact#3: Bulimia is a Common Condition that Occurs Mostly Among Females

    Eating disorders are very common and one or two out of every 100 students has some form of eating disorder. Eating disorders affect millions of people in the United States, and 90 percent of those afflicted are women between 12 and 25 years of age. Bulimia statistics reveal that 4.5 to 18 percent of women and 0.4 percent of men develop a history of bulimia by the first year of college.

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    Fact #4: There is No Single Cause of Bulimia

    Contrary to the popular impression that body-weight and shape play a major role in developing bulimia, bulimia facts reveal no single cause. Bulimia is a result of many factors:

    • Negative family influences such as poor parenting, family history of alcoholism, substance abuse, sexual abuse, obesity, or emotional and personality disorders
    • Genetic factors. Research has linked bulimia with regions on chromosome 10, and with serotonin, the brain chemical involved with well-being and appetite, and with proteins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
    • Hormonal abnormalities in the thyroid, the reproductive regions, and areas related to stress, well-being, and appetite
    • Cultural pressures. For instance, the popular media such as television, movies, and magazines continually hold up a thinner body image as ideal for women.

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    Fact #5: Bulimia Has Adverse Affects on Health

    The major effect of bulimia is water retention, swelling, abdominal bloating, and frequent stomach distress. Bulimia also leads to other adverse medical conditions such as:

    • tooth erosion, cavities in teeth and gum problems
    • fluid loss owing to low potassium levels, leading to weakness, near paralysis and lethal heart rhythms
    • irregular periods in women
    • swallowing problems and rupture of the esophagus or food pipe

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    Fact #6: Bulimia Prompts Self-Destructive Behaviors

    Not only does teenage bulimia cause serious and adverse medical conditions, it contributes to self-destructive behaviors. People with bulimia usually:

    The tendency of bulimia induced self-destructive behavior is more common in women than in men. Women with bulimia also frequently abuse laxatives, appetite suppressants, diuretics, and drugs that induce vomiting

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    Continue to Page 2 for more facts about teenage bulimia

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    Teenage Bulimia Facts Page 2 of 2Teenage bulimia has many negative consequences such as its impact on health, as well as prompting self destructive behavior. It is difficult to identify the symptoms of bulimia, and diagnosis requires the co-operation and willingness of the patient.
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    Fact#7: Bulimia Has Psychological Affects

    Teenage Bulimia Teenage Bulimia has repercussions on the person’s mental state.

    Bulimia leads to low self-esteem, and causes symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. People suffering from bulimia, even if putting up a cheerful front, remain depressed, lonely and ashamed. They suffer from anxiety, self-doubt, depression, and anger, but find it difficult to talk about their feelings.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Alpha

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    Fact#8: It is Difficult to Identify Symptoms of Bulimia

    It is usually difficult to identify teenage bulimia, as their weight may be average. Some common symptoms that may indicate bulimia include:

    • large quantities of food disappearing suddenly
    • regularly going to the bathroom right after meals, and presence of discarded packaging for laxatives, diet pills, emetics or diuretics in the bathroom
    • broken blood vessels in the eyes owing to the strain of vomiting
    • pouch-like appearance in the corners of the mouth due to swelling of salivary glands
    • tooth cavities, diseased gums, and irreversible enamel erosion owing to excessive acid from food intake and vomiting
    • rashes and pimples
    • small cuts and calluses at the top of finger joints due to self-induced vomiting

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    Fact#9: Successful Diagnosis of Bulimia Requires Co-operation of the Patient

    No diagnosis of bulimia remains effective unless the patient admits existence of an eating disorder. Many patients refuse to accept eating disorders and self-diagnose the condition as an allergy to carbohydrates.

    The most common method of diagnosis is an interview of the patient by the doctor using questionnaires such as Eating Disorders Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and SCOFF questionnaire.

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    Fact#10: A Stepped Treatment Approach Works Best for Bulimia

    One preferred method of overcoming bulimia is a stepped approach that follows specific stages of treatment depending on the severity and response to initial treatments.

    Under the stepped approach bulimia treatment program, an ideal treatment option for patients with mild conditions of bulimia and no serious health consequences is support groups.

    The ideal treatment for patients who do not respond to support groups is cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and nutritional therapy. Patients who do not respond to CBT may require selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

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    References

    1. University of Maryland Medical Center. “Eating disorders - Complications of Bulimia.” http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/how_serious_bulimia_nervosa_without_serious_weight_loss_anorexia_000049_4.htm. Retrieved 21 November 2010
    2. University of New Hampshire. “Living With Your Teen: Understanding Physical Changes.” http://extension.unh.edu/Family/Documents/teenphys.pdf. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
    3. University of Washington. “Teen Health and the Media. Fast facts.” http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts. Retrieved 21 November 2010.