The true horror of eating disorders is minimised. Whilst the media and social forums glamorise anorexia as being “heroin chic” ~ bulimia nervosa is almost completely ignored as socially taboo.
Adding to the problem is the fact that the Welsh medical community still diagnose the severity of an eating disorder in terms of bmi (low body weight). This entirely inadequate diagnostic tool all but disqualifies severe bulimics from accessing a level of help appropriate to their need.
Bulimia does not always cause low body weight. In fact, severe bulimics who consume huge quantities of high calorie, sugary food before purging are more likely to be slightly over-weight. This is because their body digests a percentage of the food they consume almost instantly.
Bulimia kills. It causes a range of chemical imbalances in the body which trigger cardiac arrest (stopping the heart) or brain damage.
Bulimia can also cause gastric rupture (rupture of the stomach), leading to death. Lung collapse, internal bleeding, stroke, kidney failure, liver failure; pancreatitis and perforated ulcers. Depression and suicide are a high cause of fatality in bulimics. The affects of binging and purging on an unborn child are brutal and irreversible.
This short film documents some of the fatalities resulting from bulimia nervosa. (There is another, far more brutal film at the end of this blog entry).
The physical affects of
Electrolyte imbalance (Can lead to cardiac arrest, which can also result in brain damage by stroke.)
Damaging of the voice
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
Teeth erosion and cavities, gum disease
Sialadenosis (salivary gland swelling)
Potential for gastric rupture during periods of binging
Irritation, inflammation, and possible rupture of the esophagus
Peptic ulcers and pancreatitis
Emetic toxicity due to ipecac abuse
Swelling of the face and cheeks, especially apparent in the lower eyelids due to the high pressure of blood in the face during vomiting.
Callused or bruised fingers
Dry or brittle skin, hair, and nails, or hair loss
Decreased/increased bowel activity
Digestive problems that may be triggered, including Celiac, Crohn’s Disease
Low blood pressure, hypotension
High blood pressure, hypertension
High risk pregnancy, miscarriage, still-born babies
Elevated blood sugar or hyperglycemia
Weakness and fatigue
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Cancer of the throat or voice box
Kidney infection and failure
Heart failure, heart arrhythmia, angina
Potential death caused by heart attack or heart failure; lung collapse; internal bleeding, stroke, kidney failure, liver failure; pancreatitis, gastric rupture, perforated ulcer, depression and suicide.
Bulimia in the UK: Fast facts
Approximately 1-2 percent of women in the UK suffer from bulimia.
Every year there are as many as 18 new cases of bulimia nervosa per 100,000 population per year.
Between 1 and 3 percent of young women are thought to be bulimic at any given moment in time.
According to some studies, as many as 8 percent of women suffer from bulimia at some stage in their life, and it affects about 5 percent of female college students.
People who have close relatives with bulimia are four times more likely to develop the disease than people who do not.
Studies indicate that about 5 out of 10 people with bulimia are healthy 10 years after diagnosis; while 2 out of 10 still have bulimia and 3 out of 10 are partially recovered.
Approximately 5 percent of bulimia sufferers go on to develop anorexia nervosa.