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The Binging and Purging Cycle - Regain Control of Your Bulimia

Updated on October 9, 2011
Many times bulimics are raised in families that are poor role models of how to express or allow our emotions.
Many times bulimics are raised in families that are poor role models of how to express or allow our emotions.

Feelings are Foreign

Most people who suffer with bulimia have trouble recognizing, much less talking about, their feelings, or they feel they have to keep their negative thoughts to themselves.  Many times bulimics are raised in families that are poor role models of how to express or allow our emotions.  In my family, all I can remember growing up was hearing my parents fighting all the time.  In order to cope I told myself it wasn’t ok to get upset and be angry with other people. I hid away and didn’t know how to express negative feelings like anger, frustration and disagreement. 

Depending upon the unwritten rules in the family, someone suffering from bulimia is often unsure how to express their feelings. In fact, not only do women with bulimia often not know how to express their emotions, deep down they often have trouble identifying what they are actually feeling.   A bulimic might assume because she knows no other way that her feelings are bad and she’s a bad person for having these feelings.

Disconnect From Self

In order to cope with feeling badly about having negative feelings, bulimics may disconnect themselves from their feelings.  In fact, they disconnect themselves from their senses and no longer recognize signals from their own body.  Hunger and fullness become foreign, not to mention the disconnection from most things pleasurable, too.

After a bulimic disconnects herself from feeling the sensations of her body she eventually becomes disconnected from her self.  Her mind becomes separated from her self.  She loses her connection with her physical, emotional and spiritual selves.  Avoiding this sense of separateness can drive her further into her addiction and cause her to disconnect herself more and more to the people around her, as well.

Out of Control

Begin to picture a woman with bulimia as adrift, lost and disconnected from the self she once knew.  Feelings of insecurity, incompleteness, lack and emptiness creep in and grow stronger the longer the binging and purging comes between her and her feelings.  Often women suffering with bulimia say they feel empty, depressed, unmotivated and powerless over their addiction and the world in general.

The cycle of binging and purging leads to more and more disconnection from themselves, their physical bodies and they stop recognizing their own feelings.  Their inner self hungers to connect, but their outer self hungers to fit in, be liked, and please others.  Their eating disorder leaves them only more empty and alone inside with every episode.

Bulimia only appears to solve their problems.  It’s a temporary fix.  A quick high.  After the binge is over and the food is purged, life comes rushing back in.  On the tail of the purge lives even more guilt and shame at continuing to allow this behavior to continue.  No wonder bulimia can leave you feeling so out of control.

The Thinking (Eating) Disorder

I’ve heard bulimia referred to as the thinking disorder.  There’s no doubt in my 20 years of living with bulimia that was sure true for me.  The never ending battle with negative thoughts about my body, what I ate, never being good enough and always trying to measure up to some unreachable ideal I set for myself.   Therapists talk about how the mind of someone with bulimia is constantly spinning – going over and over negative thoughts to no end.   This constant loop of compulsive thinking keeps you from hearing anything else in the world, much less your own inner guidance.

The thinking, or over-thinking, that goes into every element of hiding an eating disorder – the lies, the deceit, and the avoidance - can be overwhelming.  All of the planning that’s involved in buying massive quantities of food, hiding out while eating and finding ways to cover up the purging or over exercise can be exhausting.

Challenging Thought Patterns

Part of letting go of bulimia is turning around all the negative thinking into supportive, empowering thoughts that rebuild your self-esteem. Becoming aware of the negative patterns when they appear is part of the work in recovery. Retraining the brain to actually focus on the positive can seem quite challenging at first, but it’s like a fly wheel and once you get it started can quickly take on momentum.

The overwhelm that bulimics feel arising from their disconnection to self, negative thought patterns and all of the work that goes into covering up their eating disorder can be turned around with effective bulimia treatments. Getting help with bulimia is a first step to regaining control of your mind, your life and your future.


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      4 years ago

      Dear Polly,

      Am so happy to have stumbled upon this. Having reached almost 10 years of Bulimia, I am at the stage whereby I recognise the mind challenges and the thought processes I need to work on. I have seen a psychologist and she is helping and I am channeling my attention to self development. I have just started getting heartburn badly (the other issues are present - skin conditions, lethargy, bloating etc) but this highlighted again the damages. Thank you for such an informative information post - cannot thank you enough for providing useful and relevant information and help. I have just seen it today and already feel some clarity from it. Many thanks,


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