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Eating disorders

Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is characterised by repeated uncontrollable episodes of binge-eating followed by the use of unhealthy compensatory behaviours (e.g., vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise) to prevent weight gain. During a binge, clients typically consume large amounts of food within a very short amount of time accompanied by a feeling of not having control over their eating. Individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa often have strong negative beliefs about their appearance and about the importance of weight and shape.

Binge-eating disorder

Similar to bulimia nervosa, patients with binge-eating disorder frequently experience uncontrollable episodes of binge-eating. However, binge-eating disorder is different from bulimia nervosa because individuals usually do not use purging behaviours (e.g., vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise) to try to control their weight.

Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is characterised by a person’s refusal to maintain their body weight within 15 percent of their normal weight. It is a serious, often chronic and life-threatening eating disorder. Other essential features of anorexia include an intense fear of gaining weight, a negative body image, and amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual cycles). In addition to long periods of restrictive eating, some individuals also engage in episodes of binge-eating and purging.

How may having an eating disorder affect your physical health over time?

In bulimia nervosa, laxative abuse and self-induced vomiting can lead to significant fluid and electrolyte abnormalities. Symptoms can include extreme thirst, dizziness, and fluid retention. Of greatest concern is hypokalaemia (low potassium) which can result in heartbeat irregularities. Some laxatives, if taken in high doses, can result in permanent damage to the gut wall. In anorexia nervosa, starvation, weight loss, and related medical complications can seriously affect the person’s health and result in death.