According to estimates made by The National Eating Disorders Association, about 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lifetimes here in America. While experts have previously been unable to pin down any singular cause behind the development of eating disorders, there is now a growing consensus that a variety of sociocultural, psychological, and biological factors likely influence someone’s likelihood of developing one. Eating disorders are illnesses that can develop in anyone regardless of their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, weight, body shape, or ethnicity.
Bulimia Nervosa: the Basics
Bulimia nervosa is one of the several types of eating disorders. A hallmark of this possibly life-threatening disease is a cycle of binge eating followed by purging. Binge eating is defined by an individual eating a large amount of food over a short period of time while feeling out of control. And purging is defined as a compensatory behavior such as inducing vomiting or misusing laxatives and enemas in an effort to “cancel out” the food consumed during an eating binge.
There are a few known risk factors that may increase someone’s likelihood of developing bulimia, as well as many warning signs you can look out for that may suggest you or a loved one is suffering from the disease.
The National Eating Disorders Association has compiled several relevant studies pertaining to eating disorders over the years, including bulimia. One of the studies deduced that, at any moment, about 0.1% of young men and 1.0% of young women will meet the diagnostic criteria pertaining to bulimia nervosa. Another study, conducted in 2007, asked 9,282 English-speaking Americans about various mental health conditions; it found that 0.5% of the men and 1.5% of the women suffered from bulimia nervosa at some point during their lives. Overall, rates of bulimia rose during the 1980s through the early 1990s, but have largely stayed stable since, or perhaps even slightly decreased.
Bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders can prove to be fatal in some cases. In particular, the binge and purge cycle characteristic of bulimia can lead to chemical and electrolyte imbalances that can lead to sudden, unexpected death. This highlights the importance of early intervention and finding the right treatment program.
If you live in the United States, you can locate eating disorder treatment on a state-by-state basis thanks to Eating Disorder Hope. You may also want to contact an eating disorder hotline. The National Eating Disorders Association lists a few different ways to get into contact with someone, including instant messaging, texting, or calling. If you are unable to get in touch with someone, you can always leave a message. If you are in a state of crisis, however, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 to be put in touch with a trained volunteer at any time.