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Bulimia Causes and Treatment

Updated on November 20, 2009

Bulimia is defined as the voracious and continuous consumption of huge quantities of food. The patient (almost always middle to upper class young females) may gorge themselves for minutes, hours, days or weeks - and then attempt to lose weight by purging, vomiting and the use of fluid tablets. The condition may be associated with anorexia nervosa. The main difference between these diseases being the way in which the patients see themselves - the bulimic has a fear of being fat, the anorexic has a desire to be thin. Bulimics often maintain a near-normal weight, despite their habits, and are often secretive, appearing to eat normally in public, but are binge eating and vomiting in private.

Complications can include menstrual irregularities, sore throat, bowel problems, dehydration, lethargy, and dental problems due to the repeated exposure of the teeth to stomach acid. Blood tests may show changes in the balance of some chemicals within the blood, due to their loss with repeated vomiting and purging.

Treatment requires close family support, psychotherapy and careful medical monitoring over a period of several years. Most patients recover, and go on to lead normal lives, although suicide can be a risk in severe cases.

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