Bulimia is a psychological disorder that is caused by a skewed body image .Two forms of bulimia are recognized by the American Psychological Association, both of which can be devastating to a person’s health and after prolonged practice, may even cause death. An alarming rate of people suffer from the disease, many of them younger than 30. Peer pressure, the media and other mental factors may have an influence on adolescents who suffer from the disease. Other factors such as family and home life may play a role as well.
Symptoms of bulimia include a negative body and self image, binging and purging, which is the act of eating to the point where the stomach cannot handle anymore and forcing oneself to vomit, or the use of excessive amounts of laxatives to rid the body of food. Many of the foods that individuals with bulimia consume are high in fat and calories.
In many cases, people with bulimia start out with a diet and exercise program that is rather innocent and healthy for their bodies. The problem begins when the individual cheats on his or her diet, and then experiences a feeling of guilt or failure afterwards. This escalates the feeling of low self esteem and increases the severity of the situation, until it escalates to bulimia where the binge-purge behavior is exerted.
Diagnosis of this disorder involves a psychological evaluation to determine if an individual exhibits traits of the disease. This involves asking rigorous questions about self and body image and getting a history of the individual’s weight issues, and any other family or home issues present. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the criteria for diagnosing a patient with bulimia includes binging and purging at least twice a week for three consecutive months, negative or unrealistic body image and weight loss attitudes, and the absence of anorexia.
Individual and group therapy is a widely used treatment for bulimia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also used to try and change a patient’s perception to foster a more positive body image. Family therapy is one way to help bulimic individuals cope with their illness and change their behavior patterns. A solid, stable support system is important for any person suffering from a disease.
Since bulimia is a psychological disorder, it is very important for family members to be supportive and help the individual using positive feedback. It is also important that family members talk about their problems together. Sometimes, people use this disease as a way to cope with other issues in their lives. Bulimia is a very serious psychological disorder that demands prompt treatment from both a psychologist and medical doctor.