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Cause of Bulimia Nervosa

Nov 30, 2007
Bulimia is one of the most rapidly increasing psychological problems around nowadays. But what causes bulimia? Is it an extreme response to Western society pressure on young girls and women to be slim?

Or are there other factors contributing to the problem?

Can we influence these factors and change their effects on people?

Genetic, environmental, biological are all common factors that have to be looked at when we talk about the causes of any diseases or disorders.

Let's look at these things in the case of Bulimia.

Scientific research recently has shown that people are born with an inherited predisposition towards developing bulimia, particularly where susceptibility to addiction is in the genes.

It reveals that bulimics inherit a gene responsible for the addiction from their ancestors. This addiction can appear in different forms: alcohol addiction, drug addiction, food addiction, nicotine and the like. That's why many bulimics also suffer from addictions to other substances also, making recovery difficult.

So a genetic predisposition to bulimia may be there but it is not a single bulimia gene itself that is the culprit but a general addiction gene. And in many bulimic families we can trace backwards to past members of the family who suffered from other kinds of addiction in their lives.

But on the other hand not all people who get an addiction gene suffer from bulimia or other addictions. So we have to look at other things like environmental factors.

Environmental factors can contribute to triggering the onset of bulimia. These include peer pressures, family attitudes, the influence of the media creating a need for thinness, poor self-esteem and a lack of acceptance of self and body shape.

Bulimia often begins with a dissatisfaction of the person's body. The individual may actually be underweight, but when that person looks in a mirror they see a distorted image and feel heavier than they really are.

At first, this distorted body image leads to dieting. As the body image in the mirror continues to be seen as larger than it actually is, the dieting escalates and leads to bulimia. The bottom line however, is that bulimia is the misuse of food to try to resolve emotional problems.

When a person is unable to face their feelings, define problems, and resolves them effectively, that person is more prone to become susceptible to the onset of bulimia.

A significant correlation between the development of clinical bulimia nervosa and sexual abuse has also been proven. Other forms of abuse (physical, emotional or combination of both of them) also link to developing of dissatisfaction with the person's body that can lead to bulimia any time in the future.

Strict and cold parental attitude and luck of showing love to children from parents can become a trigger for developing a wrong body image in children that can turn into bulimia in susceptible people.

That is why you should never tease your child if they are a little bit over weight as this could just be a normal growing process for that child body shape. But a wrong word from a parent or family member may inadvertently send that person down the track to bulimia.

The next factor which can cause bulimia is biological or biochemical factor. This happens when one or a few biological processes in the human body have gone off track. Some research has shown that an insufficiency of a special hormone in the brain called serotonin can cause depression and bulimia at the same time. This is probably why many bulimics also suffer from depression.

Some antidepressants that work on restoring the level of serotonin in the brain can help some sufferers stop their binges while taking them. This could also mean that many sufferers, who manage to stop their bulimia for a short while, go back to binging again when they stop the antidepressants.

Anyone who has been on antidepressants and has stopped should look for other supplements where they can substitute the loss of serotonin; I believe you can get serotonin in the health food stores in capsules form. Although taking serotonin on its own will not automatically stop your bulimia, as it is a much deeper psychological problem that a single chemical imbalance: but it would not hurt either.

As you can see, many factors can contribute to the development of bulimia. For some sufferers it is the environmental factors that come into play, like desire to be thin, peer pressure to be thin or influence from the media to be thin. Some people may have a strong genetic influence that can be traced to past relatives who may have suffered from bulimia or other addictions.

Depressed sufferers will blame their low serotonin level in the brain for their bulimia. But the majority of people probably have a combination of factors that has caused their bulimia.

In conclusion, the causes of bulimia could be many: genetic, biological and environmental. So far we can not change the genes we are born with but we can manage to control certain behaviors brought on by defective genes, with the correct methods.

To change biological factors like low serotonin levels in the brain, it is possible with certain drugs or supplementation, but it does not work for everyone. The only bulimia factor we can change easily is the environmental factor. This includes changing our attitude to body image, our perception of real beauty and our eating habits.

By promoting a healthy environment we can eradicate or significantly diminish one of the main causes of bulimia the environmental factor. The other causes can also be controlled if we are aware of their existence.
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.mom-please-help.com
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