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The Warning Signs of Bulimia and Anorexia

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Eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, are commonly researched in females. Portrayals of eating disorders in media and television are also overwhelmingly female. However, eating disorders, much like other mental health issues, do not discriminate gender or nationality. Bulimia and anorexia are found to occur in both males and females and in different countries worldwide. Bulimia affects 3% of females and more than 1% of males. anorexia affects up to 4% of females and 0.3% of males. Recognizing the signs of bulimia and anorexia is imperative because the risk of death in individuals is five times higher for those with eating disorders than those without. 

What is bulimia? 

According to the DSM-5, bulimia nervosa is characterized by the following five diagnostic criteria:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating that includes consuming larger amounts of food than the average person within a two-hour window and feeling like one cannot stop eating. 
  • Recurrent compensatory behaviors that one does to prevent weight gain. Examples include self-induced vomiting, fasting or excessive exercise, and misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications. 
  • The pattern of binge eating and compensatory behavior occurs about once a week for at least three months. 
  • The individual evaluates themselves solely based on their body shape and weight. 
  • These symptoms do not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa. 

A common myth of eating disorders is that they do not occur in individuals who are at a “normal body weight.” However, as indicated above, the criteria do not specify body weight. The disorder is a psychological disturbance that manifests in behavioral changes to compensate, resulting in adverse health effects. 

What is anorexia? 

According to the DSM-5, anorexia nervosa is characterized by the following three diagnostic criteria:

  • Restriction of food intake is lower than the recommended daily intake for the individual, which ultimately leads to significantly low body weight compared to what is considered healthy for their age, sex, and development. 
  • A feeling of persistent, intense fear of gaining weight and behavior to avoid weight gain. 
  • One’s self-worth is almost entirely influenced by body weight or shape, feeling disturbed by one’s own body weight or shape, or lacking recognition of low body weight.

The presence of anorexia nervosa can occur as either restricting type or binge-eating/purging type. The restricting type occurs without the presence of binge eating or purging. The binge-eating/purging type occurs with the presence of binge eating episodes or purging behavior within the anorexia nervosa episode. 

What are the signs of bulimia and anorexia? 

There are many medical complications of both bulimia and anorexia that can often be observed by visual symptoms. The following include behavioral clues and signs of medical complications related to bulimia and anorexia: 

  • Dry Skin 
  • Feeling cold all the time and thus wearing extra layers of clothing
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide the weight loss 
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Irregular period or loss of period
  • Hair loss and brittle nails
  • Presence of soft, fine hairs on the body, known as lanugo hair
  • Obsession with food, including calorie counting and categorizing foods as good or bad
  • Obsession with one’s weight or body shape, which can manifest as constantly checking oneself in the mirror or weighing oneself
  • Excessive exercise 
  • Excessive fasting periods or extreme dieting
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Increased irritability 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hiding food to make it look like they ate or avoiding mealtimes

How Thrive Treatment Can Help

The best treatment for bulimia and anorexia is a combination of medication, such as antidepressants and psychotherapy. Thrive Treatment can help you or your loved one create a personalized treatment plan to address bulimia and anorexia. This can include individual therapy, group therapy, mindfulness, meditation techniques, and medication. We believe in treating each client as an individual, so our expert clinicians will ensure that they utilize an approach that best fits your needs. Reach out today to find out how Thrive Treatment can help you achieve recovery.

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