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History Of Bulimia And How It Evolved Into a New Problem

Mar 28, 2008
The History of bulimia is old. Even in ancient Rome people used to vomit up food they ate in the period of feasting. They even had special places for it called "vomitorium". There is a lot of recollection about these events in ancient Rome books. Roman emperors Claudius and Vitellius were bulimic.

Some other cultures like ancient Egyptian purged themselves every month for three days in succession, using emetics and clysters to preserve health. They thought that human diseases come from food.

In Europe in Middle Ages purgation was used like a remedy for many diseases and was advocated by middle age physicians.

In ancient Greece and Arabia there were also descriptions in texts of binging and purging.

But all these ancient practices of binging and purging are similar but not the same as what we call "bulimia" now. There was no evidence of a drive for thinness that is the obvious trait in all modern bulimics; in fact skinny women were not the normal shape for women.

From the evidence that have been reported it is obvious that bulimia nervosa as it is presented now was an unknown disease until the late 20th century.

In the 1970s there were cases described in medical literature of three patients in whom overeating alternated with under eating and was classed as anorexia nervosa. One patient vomited and the other two took a lot of laxatives to get rid of food.

The first description of the modern bulimia nervosa was published in 1979 by Dr Russell. He stated in the result of his research that overeating and self-induced vomiting may have been common practices among otherwise normal female students attending North Americans universities. He mentioned that the condition was always most relevant to females.

There is no doubt that bulimia incidents significantly increased in the 1980s and came to exceed the incidences of anorexia nervosa.

Still there are many questions remaining about bulimia nervosa.
Questions like, is a bulimia nervosa a new disease or it is it the same disease that has been known for centuries, but manifesting as a different version? And what made bulimia increase so significantly in the last a few decades? Was it modern pressure to be thin or more like inherited personality traits or both?

To conclude, bulimia like simple overeating has been known since ancient time. But the term "bulimia nervosa" can not be applied to the cases recorded in histories that were published before 1979. Simply because the motives in the past for overeating and then purging were different from today and the psychological aspects were also different.

The modern term "bulimia nervosa" means not just the simple practice of binging and purging, there are now certain personality traits behind the term. These traits include addictive tendencies, problem with impulse control, obsession with weight and general looks and certain personality disorders can be associated with the term of bulimia nervosa.

So my own opinion is that bulimia nervosa is a new disease of our time that has emerged due to the intensive pressure to look slim. Also the fact that they are used by many sufferers as a coping mechanism for the extra stress we have in our lives nowadays.

Modern medicine as put all its reliance on cognitive behavior therapy for dealing with Bulimia. Although there was some early success it has now become apparent that it is failing for the majority of sufferers as the disease continues to evolve.

The new way forward in treating the disease is to remove the subconscious blockages that have been shown to hinder and hold back a person from recovery. As more and more is know about how the mind works medicine has to move with the flow of discoveries and not rely on an outdated methodology.

But unfortunately throughout history medicine has never moved at a quick pace, so many sufferers who do not find out about the newer methods will have to suffer needlessly until medicine catches up.
About the Author
Dr Irina Webster MD is the Director of Women Health Issues Program which covers different areas of Women Health. She is a recognised athority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many books and a public speaker.learn more about eating disorders at http://www.bulimia-cure.com
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