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Bulimia: Finding Freedom Can Be Deadly

Sep 5, 2008
Tina Dunaway was 18 when she started binging and purging.  The stresses of senior year seemed overwhelming, her boyfriend broke up with her, and she was rejected by her first college pick. Tina felt out of control and the year went on she desperately sought some sort of validity and strength in her young and hopeful life. One morning she did the unthinkable - she caused herself to throw up. It was exhilarating and she felt free. Soon she began to do it more often. And although she felt physically ill from it, her grounding came back. Of course that was until she felt her depression coming on again, eating her up from the inside. Then she would purge. In a sense, she felt as if she was purging herself of all of her problems and her doubts. Tina was letting go. She was letting go of herself...

Purging to prevent weight gain is a way for people - usually young women with bulimia to feel more in control of their lives and to ease stress and anxiety. Often times they don't even sense anything is truly wrong.

Classified as an eating disorder, bulimia can be much more difficult to spot than anorexia.   People with bulimia are usually of average or slightly above average weight and the signs aren't always clear.  Chronic binging and purging leads to many health problems--some of which are life-threatening.  For many, the side effects of bulimia - while dangerous - are mostly unseen.  The teeth and mouth are often affected, though others might not notice.  Frequent vomiting brings up stomach acid into the mouth, eroding teeth enamel. Cavities and gum infections are common in people with bulimia. The stomach acid also irritates the esophagus, producing heartburn, and the salivary glands, making them swell.

Other common medical complications and adverse effects of bulimia include internal physical damage, such as chronic irregular bowel movements due to abusing laxatives.   The most dangerous side effect of bulimia is dehydration due to purging. Vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, most commonly in the form of low potassium levels. Low potassium levels trigger a wide range of symptoms ranging from lethargy and cloudy thinking to irregular heartbeat and death. Chronically-low levels of potassium can also result in kidney failure.

Ultimately bulimia's effects can lead to multiple health complications later on and for many women this can mean death.
The emotional side effects of bulimia may include: 

Overwhelming sense of isolation
Feelings of shame and guilt
Depression symptoms
Low self-esteem. 
Because bulimia is the result of a variety of psychological, cultural, familial and biological causes, curing it is rarely simple.  It requires professional assistance to treat effectively.  Ten percent of people with bulimia eventually die from its effects, usually from the electrolyte imbalance caused by dehydration. Of course this doesn't factor in suicide, which can be a result of severe depression made only worse by bulimia nervosa.

The sad fact that most women with bulimia could have been able to return to a normal life if they had sought help early on, should be a wake up call to many medical and eating disorder professionals. With more knowledge and awareness many people can be saved.
About the Author
Andrew Beckers writes about important information on the Web. Learn more about Bulimia Nervosa.
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