Risk Factors of Bulimia

Risk Factors of Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa is a severe issue that can pose a threat to a person’s life due to resulting medical issues such as cardiac problems and electrolyte imbalances. It is characterized by a person taking part in a harmful cycle of binge eating and purging. During a binge eating episode, someone will feel a loss of control as they eat a large amount of food over a relatively short period of time. Purging is a compensatory behavior that follows a binge eating episode that seeks to “undo” its effects; people may purge via self-inducing vomiting or misusing laxatives, diuretics, and/or enemas. 

Risk Factors

The National Eating Disorders Association has compiled several risk factors that may increase someone’s likelihood of developing eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and OFSED. These risk factors cover a broad variety psychological, biological, as well as sociocultural factors that could interact differently among different people; this means that two people who suffer from the same eating disorder could have markedly different experiences, symptoms, and perspectives.

Some Psychological risk factors may include:

  • Dissatisfaction with one’s body image: individuals who develop eating disorders have an increased chance of reporting dissatisfaction with their body image as well as an internalized appearance ideal.
  • Perfectionism: this is one of the strongest risk factors behind the development of eating disorders.
  • History of having an anxiety disorder: research has shown that a significant amount of people with eating disorders showed signs of having an anxiety disorder before their eating disorder began to manifest. 

Social risk factors might include:

  • Historical trauma: this is also referred to as intergenerational trauma, and is used to describe the “massive cumulative group trauma across generations.”
  • Acculturation: individuals who are undergoing rapid Westernization or are from ethnic and racial minority groups could have a heightened risk of developing an eating disorder because of the complicated interactions among acculturation, body image, and stress.
  • Appearance ideal internalization: believing that there is an “ideal body” as determined by one’s socio cultural surroundings might put someone at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder because they are more likely to restrict food and diet.
  • Teasing/bullying: 60% of people suffering from an eating disorder have said that bullying contributed to the development of their illness.
  • Weight stigma: research has shown that messages such as “thinner is better” can lead to an increase in body dissatisfaction and, ultimately, eating disorders.

And some biological risk factors for bulimia could include:

  • Type 1 diabetes: about 25% of women who have type 1 diabetes develop an eating disorder.
  • A history of dieting: dieting, as well as using other methods of weight control has been shown to be associated with binge eating’s development.
  • Having a close relative who has an eating disorder: studies have shown that one’s risk of developing an eating disorder increases if they have a first-degree relative who struggles with one.
  • Having a close relative with a mental health condition: issues such as depression, anxiety, and addiction can run in families and also increase the risk that someone will develop some type of an eating disorder.
  • Negative energy balance: this can come about from burning off more calories than consumed. Many individuals have reported that their eating disorder began from them deliberately dieting. Other causes of negative energy imbalances are intense athletic training, growth spurts, and illness.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, you may choose to contact an eating disorder hotline. If you find yourself in a crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 to be put in touch with a properly trained individual at any time. You can find other treatment resources here. We are also here to help you here at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can reach us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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