Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that affects millions of Americans. It causes episodes of uncontrollable binge-eating and behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives, fasting, going on crash diets, and doing compulsive exercise. Without a proper recovery plan, bulimia can result in behavioral complications, health risks, and even death. However, numerous cases of this condition go unnoticed until it becomes severe. Here are some signs that a loved one needs help:
1. Extreme concern with body shape.
It is common for people with bulimia to have a sense of distorted body image and intense dissatisfaction with their body shape. Although they might not vocalize it, this negative mindset can manifest in their poor self-esteem. They try to hide their body by wearing baggy clothes, frequently check themselves in the mirror for imagined flaws, or avoid looking into the mirror.
2. Unusual behavior around mealtimes.
People who have bulimia feel ashamed of overeating and hide their abnormal eating habits to other people. They go to the kitchen once everyone’s in bed or go out alone on unexpected food runs. Some of them refuse to attend events that involve food. You might also find food wrappers or stashes of junk food in unusual places like your loved one’s closet or bed.
Consistently going to the bathroom following meals can also be a sign indicative of an eating disorder. Your loved one might let the water running in the faucet to disguise vomiting and use excessive amounts of breath mints, gums, or mouthwash to hide the smell. Another standard method to offset eating is taking laxatives or diuretics. Thus, it can be a possible cause for concern if you find several wrappers or bottles of these purging drugs in your home.
3. Doing compulsive exercise.
People with bulimia feel compelled to exercise in an attempt to burn the excess calories they gained from bingeing. This is called “bulimia exercise,” which hurts their health rather than help their wellbeing. They exercise excessively without giving their body adequate time for rest and athletic recovery. Usually, they work out secretly, even when they are sick or have an injury. They become unusually depressed when they fail to work out, and they miss their work or school to fulfill their exercise schedule.
4. Bloating and facial swelling.
Over time, binge eating, and purging can damage the abdomen and cause the tissues to swell. As a result, the bloating can be visible and come with severe stomach pain. Cycles of self-induced vomiting can also cause the parotid salivary glands to swell. These swollen glands will make the person’s face look chubby while the other body parts look proportionate.
As with other mental disorders, it’s most effective to treat bulimia during the early stage. It is a progressive illness, so noticing the red flags early can make a huge difference. Once you catch the tell-tale signs, it’s crucial to have a compassionate discussion with your loved one. It can be challenging, but it is the first step to inspire healing.