Some people have difficulty controlling how much they eat, causing them to worry about maintaining a healthy weight. Individuals may overeat and then try different methods to stop themselves from gaining weight due to overeating. Eating disorders (EDs) like bulimia nervosa are highly dangerous and have the potential to cause severe health issues. According to MedlinePlus, “Some people with serious eating disorders may need to be in a hospital or in a residential treatment program.” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab offers treatment programs for clients struggling with eating disorders, including bulimia nervosa.

What Is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa, often referred to simply as bulimia, is one of the most common forms of disordered eating. According to the Office on Women’s Health, individuals “with bulimia may . . . try to prevent weight gain after binging by exercising a lot more than normal, eating very little or not at all (fasting), or taking pills to urinate often.” In most cases, people diagnosed with bulimia have an average body weight. However, they may also be slightly underweight or overweight. 

Individuals with bulimia nervosa experience episodes of significant overeating, during which they lose control of their ability to maintain a healthy serving size. For example, someone may eat an entire large pizza in a single sitting despite a large pizza being over the recommended daily calorie intake for many adults. Bingeing is followed quickly by purging behaviors. In most cases, purging is done to reduce weight gain caused by increased calorie consumption.

The Dangers of Purging Behaviors 

Bulimia nervosa is a highly dangerous disorder and can lead to significant health issues. Prolonged use of laxatives or other purging methods causes cumulative health damage to various organs and body systems.

The most common forms of purging include:

  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Diuretics
  • Laxatives
  • Over-exercising
  • Fasting or significantly decreasing food intake

According to the International Journal of Eating Disorders, “Purging behavior can be associated with severe medical complications across all body systems.” Researchers reported, “Medical conditions affecting the teeth, esophagus, gastrointestinal system, kidneys, skin, cardiovascular system, and musculoskeletal system were identified, with self-induced vomiting causing the most medical complications.”

Long-Term Health Issues 

Bulimia has the potential to cause severe health side effects if left untreated, including:

  • Increased risk of developing substance use or mental health disorders
  • Kidney failure due to dehydration
  • Increased risk of heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Decreased bone density
  • Electrolyte imbalance

Bulimia may also affect reproductive health in women. The potential side effects increase the risk of severe illness or injury if the disorder remains untreated. Exclusive Hawaii Rehab offers evidence-based treatment programs and a home-like environment where clients feel safe exploring their relationship with food and building healthier daily routines.

Risk Factors for Developing Bulimia Nervosa

Although women have a higher risk of developing EDs, anyone can experience disordered eating and distorted thoughts about weight or body image.

Some known risk factors for developing bulimia nervosa include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Parental or guardian pressure to maintain a certain appearance or weight
  • Chronic stress
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Family history of EDs
  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Untreated or unmanaged mental health issues

The exact cause of bulimia and other EDs is currently unknown. However, researchers believe many factors may play a role. Some people may be prone to disordered eating due to changes in the brain. Studies have shown that “patients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa have widespread abnormalities with diffuse alterations in white matter structural and useful connectivity, particularly within appetite-regulating and taste-reward pathways.”

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Common Symptoms and Side Effects

The symptoms and side effects of bulimia nervosa vary depending on how a person chooses to purge, their general health, and other factors.

Some common symptoms and side effects include:

  • Compulsive and impulsive behavior
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Irregular periods or lack of menstruation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pain in the throat or chest in individuals who self-induced vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat

Bingeing and purging are highly dangerous and may cause multiple organ failures if left untreated. Individuals concerned about their eating behaviors should undergo a clinical assessment to reduce the risk of severe side effects. Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses comprehensive assessments and screening tools to ensure clients receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

Treatment Options at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

The clinicians at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab have decades of combined experience treating primary EDs or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse issues. Clinicians provide clients with the tools and skills to address the root cause of disordered eating.

Some of the treatments and services offered at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Nutritional coaching
  • Skill development
  • Psychiatric nutrition
  • Alternative holistic therapies

Clinicians collaborate with clients to ensure they receive the support and guidance needed to develop a healthier relationship with food.

Psychoeducation and Managing Bulimia Nervosa

Disordered eating is often caused by unmanaged trauma, chronic stress, or other factors impacting a person’s ability to cope. Psychoeducation provides clients with context for their symptoms and disorders. Clients have better outcomes when they have a deeper understanding of their condition and how to address various challenges during treatment. The care team at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab ensures clients and their families have the information they need to make informed decisions about treatment and aftercare.