What is Anorexia Nervosa (307.1, F50.01 or F50.02)

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What is Anorexia Nervosa (307.1, F50.01 or F50.02)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Anorexia is an eating disorder that is about more than food.

Anorexia Nervosa, Anorexia for short, is one of the Feeding and Eating Disorders that are officially recognized as a mental disorder in the DSM-5. Anorexia has recognized “subtypes.” Like that of many other mental health disorders, these subtypes may over time change enough that a person might get several different diagnoses during their life.

There have been several prominent people who have suffered from Anorexia and death is a possible outcome of this disease. This disorder affects women about ten times as often as it does men. Researchers and writers have compared this disorder to OCD and addiction. Similar pathways in the brain may be affected in all these conditions. More information on the alteration of the brain’s functioning in these disorders is likely to become available in the future.

The big three Anorexia symptoms.

There are three significant symptoms that professionals look for in diagnosing Anorexia. These include how the person with Anorexia sees their body, similar to the distortions we see in Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Also on the symptoms list is how the client feels about their body weight and lastly comes the result of this distorted body image and their altered feelings about body weight. This post as other posts on counselorssoapbox.com is my simplified, common language description. For the full text check out the DSM-5 by the APA.

People with Anorexia think they are fat even when the mirror disagrees.

It is common for those with Anorexia to report they dislike themselves because they are “fat” or overweight. They will persist in believing they are fat even when told by their doctor or other professional that their body weight falls below the minimum needed for health.

When asked about their weight they will often report that they need to lose a few pounds even when they are experiencing medical issues from malnutrition.

Some may only report that one part of their body is too large or misshapen. The solution to this oversized body part in their mind is extreme weight loss.

In Anorexia weight gain is more feared than death.

Someone who has Anorexia will demonstrate an extreme fear of gaining weight. They continue to assert that if they eat they will become “fat” and will go to extreme lengths to avoid weight gain.

A dislike of the self because of this distorted view of their body is common. Even when they know that this self-view is unrealistic they can’t seem to shake the belief that if they could just lose some more weight than they would be acceptable,

Using more calories than you take in is the continual goal.

Someone with Anorexia will attempt to reduce the calories taken in each day below the amount they need to maintain a normal weight. This is done not simply to prevent weight gain but to result in a loss of weight. This is nothing like typical dieting where the goal is to maintain a healthy weight. The goal here, presumably, is to continue to lose weight even when they are already thinner than a healthy weight.

Because of the two criteria above the person with Anorexia continues to think of themselves as fat and to fear any weight gain no matter how low the body weight may go.

In children or young adults, this may manifest more as a failure to grow and put on weight during the growing years rather than a measurable loss of weight.

There are two recognized types of Anorexia, although this may change over time.

Restricting type Anorexia.

In this condition, the person avoids taking in calories as much as possible. They may avoid eating around others, say they are full or not feeling well or otherwise try to avoid even a minimal amount of calories.

Binge eating and purging type Anorexia.

In this subtype of Anorexia Nervosa, the person with Anorexia may give in to the look or taste of food and eat. When they do this it is like the alcoholic who just relapsed. Any food in sight is fair game. But as soon as they have eaten, they are overcome with an intense fear of weight gain and guilt. At this point, they will use extraordinary efforts to get rid of the unwanted calories.

These compensatory efforts may include purging, self-induced vomiting, or the use of laxatives to produce intense diarrhea. Some will resort to strenuous exercise in an effort to atone for the eating binge.

The primary distinction between Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa is that the person with Bulimia looks like they have a normal body weight. They may even be a few pounds over and they eat well, just they use the compensatory methods to avoid weight gain.  Those purging binges can damage their health. In Anorexia the risk is that the damage to health may be more rapid and may result in death. More on Bulimia Nervosa in an upcoming What is. post

Risk factors for developing Anorexia include having currently or in the past had an Anxiety disorder, as well as cultures, occupations or activities that emphasize being thin.

FYI these recent “What is” posts are based on the new DSM-5, some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. The descriptions are largely my own plain language versions.

For more on this and related topics see – Feeding and Eating Disorders.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Mid-life and later life eating disorders?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhealthy food

Unhealthy relationship with food.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Why are mid-lifers and seniors developing eating disorders?

Eating disorders have traditionally been thought of as diseases of adolescence and young adulthood. Recently we think we are seeing an increase in eating disorders in middle age and older adults. Are people first developing an eating disorder as adults and if so why?

The first eating disorder to be recognized and studied was anorexia. When someone weighs less than 85% of the “average” weight for their height and age they stand out. Consider also that those average weight charts cited in some of the research may date from 1959 when most people here in the U. S. were smaller than we are now.

Bulimia was not recognized as a separate disorder until very recently and the closer we look the more eating disorders we find. Currently, a very large number of eating disorders are lumped together under the heading Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). When the DSM-5 comes out next year (2013) there will be a whole new way of categorizing eating disorders and our understanding is likely to change.

Anorexia has long been thought of as a disease that first starts in adolescence or early adulthood. We thought it was brought on by a distorted body image or the influences of media emphasis on thinness. Anorexia is often a life long illness with relapses and can be fatal. We thought if you got out of your teen years without this illness you were home free.

We also thought that eating disorders were mostly a problem for women because of the emphasis of society on valuing women for their bodies. So when men began to be diagnosed with eating disorders this made us question what we knew about eating disorders. That change in thinking came slowly.

One study from a large European service reported in what they called a “definitive” study, that there were no cases of eating disorders that developed after age 26. I have left the name of the author of this report out from a sense of kindness. The trouble with the study was that they ended up, after looking at ten years of cases, with only eleven patients they were able to interview. Among those eleven were only one man, one person with Bulimia Nervosa and one person with EDNOS. They conclude that no one gets an eating disorder as an adult.

A study by a U. S. nonprofit of clients who were in treatment for an eating disorder in their midlife reported on a sample of 100 clients (Kally, Cumella, 2008.) They found significant incidences of late onset of an eating disorder and differences in why they may occur.

Kally & Cumella considered the question “Could these later life presentations just be people who always had the disorder but never got diagnosed and were just now reaching treatment?”

They conclude that eating disorders can and do first develop in midlife and beyond but for different reasons than those reported in samples of younger people.

They looked at three factors, background factors that predisposed the person to an eating disorder, the immediate precipitator or trigger for the episode and factors that maintain the disorder once it is established. What they found strikes me as having implications for eating disorder sufferers of all ages as well as pointing us in the direction of why more men are receiving the diagnosis these days.

The largest contributing factors they found (in my words not necessarily theirs) were a history of abuse or neglect, not just as children but at any age, and critical non-affirming people in their support system. Respondents reported that factors in the home they lived in were more important than some general societal message.

This agrees with the things many children have told me. They developed eating problems because a parent or sibling called them fat not because of some celebrities appearance. Family pressure to look a certain way, parents who controlled food or abuse substances, along with a history of abuse or neglect were some of the background reasons or risk factors for developing an eating disorder.

It takes more than a background risk factor to cause an eating disorder.

Most of the sample talked about a specific triggering event and the triggers were different for older onset cases. Children developed symptoms as a result of their family of origin problems. Those who develop eating disorders later were often triggered by events in their family of choice. So if you were abused or neglected as a child or your parents divorced you might get through the event without developing a psychiatric diagnosis. But if that sort of event happened to you as an adult, you get a divorce, then you might develop an eating disorder. People with the risk factor might show increased sensitivity to the same sort of event happening at a later point in their life.

There are more differences between early onset and late-onset eating disorders.

Adolescents are more likely to be triggered by their body image. This is the result of a natural process of growth and development. The body changes and it can be uncomfortable. This is more likely if those in your house are unsupporting or critical.

Adults develop eating disorders because of changes in the family they have created. Divorce, separation, and relationship conflicts are all triggers. As the rate of divorce increased so did the rate of adults with an eating disorder. Adults also can be triggered by health and medical issues. There was a time when there was no such thing as being too heavy. A baby who was chubby was referred to as healthy. As people live longer and become heavier we see more and more negative effects of excess weight.

Men also are feeling the effects of a shift in societal views. Overweight men are now expected to lose weight. People of both sexes have the increasing problem of weight gain caused by medications. More than ever before people are facing medication caused weight gain.

Children who were forced to diet early in life are more likely to develop a binge eating or overeating disorder in adulthood (Rubenstein, et al., 2010.) In adulthood, the number of men who develop eating disorders begins to catch up with the number of women (Keel et al., 2010.)

The eating disorder conclusion.

Young people develop eating disorders because of a faulty or poor body image. Adults, as they get older, develop eating disorders because they do not like the changes in their bodies and in their life that aging cause.

What are your thoughts about why mid-lifers and seniors are developing eating disorders?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

6 new Eating Disorder Traits

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhealthy food

Unhealthy relationship with food.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

New eating disorders that did not make the cut.

Update.

The DSM-5 is out now. some of the proposed changes did not happen. The NEC became other specified and other unspecified. I have left this post up as it reflects the thinking in the field but for the latest official diagnostic criteria consult the new DSM-5.

Beginning in 2013 when the DSM-V appears the mental health diagnostic landscape will change. We have known for a long time that the current way of understanding Eating Disorders has left out a lot of people who had problems in their relationships with food and weight.

The old way of seeing things, that eating disorders consisted of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia just didn’t fit the majority of people who a therapist might see who had problems around food and weight. In some outpatient clinics, more people got the diagnosis of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) than got a specific diagnosis. All that is about to change.

One way of cutting down on the overuse of a diagnosis is to just delete it. The Eating Disorder NOS will suffer this fate.

The new label will be Eating Disorder Not Elsewhere Classified (NEC.) The difference will be the creation of 6 new “types” or conditions. This is similar to the way we have been doing Personality Disorder symptoms that are not quite severe enough to be full disorders, we just call them “traits.”

The new conditions, in my order of explanation not the APA’s order, are:

A. Purging disorder

This will require that they purge to lose weight but will not include binging behaviors. This separates Purging Disorder from Bulimia.

B. Night Eating Syndrome

People who do this get upset about it; upset enough to go for treatment so I think this one is an improvement. The current description reminds me of cravings associated with addiction or impulse control problems.

With Night Eating Syndrome you wake up, you eat and you remember eating. It is not the same as emotional eating. After the night eating, you get upset about this behavior. The episode is not the result of changes in your sleep or eating pattern.

C. Atypical Anorexia Nervosa

In this condition, the person does everything a person with anorexia does but their weight does not drop below the magic 85% of normal. Hope the APA gives us some more to go on here. I can see how separating this from Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake disorder might be confusing.

D. Subthreshold Bulimia Nervosa

Same as Bulimia Nervosa but they don’t do the binging and compensating behaviors as often or for as long. The efforts to compensate for binging are less than once per week and/or last less than 3 months. This reminds me of depression with mild, moderate and severe categories.

E. Subthreshold Binge Eating Disorder

Like Binge Eating Disorder but not often enough or over a long enough period of time to be sure it is Binge Eating Disorder. The binges are less than once per week and/or last less than 3 months.

F. Other Feeding or Eating Condition Not Otherwise Classified

This is a place to put anything that does not fit another eating diagnosis but needs attention. As a result of all the changes in the DSM-5, new diagnoses, the conditions listed under not otherwise classified and the inclusion of some childhood things that used to be separated from eating disorders there will be a whole lot less ending up here. Effectively this should empty out all those miscellaneous NOS diagnoses.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Do any of these eating disorder traits fit you or someone you know?  Feel free to leave a comment. If any problem with weight or eating is affecting your job, relationships or making you unhappy, consider seeing a professional.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Counseling questions

Counseling questions.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder vs. Anorexia and Bulimia.

How is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFIDO) different from all those eating disorders people have come to know? And did we really need another eating disorder diagnosis?

Proposed for the new DSM-5 and looking like a for-sure new recognized eating disorder is ARFIDO.  ARFIDO has some differences from past eating disorders. Given the many possible bad relationships with food people could become involved with, my take is yes this one is different from either Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia and it has been needed for some time.

The way we have been looking at eating disorders has had some flaws for a while now. McFarland et al in 2008 wrote an interesting article on eating disorder relapse. The topic of relapse and relapse prevention has been an important part of substance abuse treatment for a long time. Recently we have been looking at the issue of relapse related to mental health issues.

In his article, McFarland reported that they ended up including all the people with an eating disorder in the relapse study because people with an eating disorder move between disorders often enough to prevent saying someone has one and only one eating disorder.

We also are told in this article that the majority of people in treatment for an eating disorder, up to 60% of those treated in outpatient, did not meet the criteria for one of the official diagnosis and ended up in the leftover category Eating Disorder Not otherwise specified (NOS).

Creating a new disorder (ARFIDO) is supposed to reduce the number of people who were ending up in that vague NOS land.

People with ARFIDO are different from those with anorexia nervosa or bulimia in several important ways. (I have taken liberties with the new DSM-V criteria here for sake of explanation.)

1. They do not have the characteristic distorted body image.

Ask a person with anorexia what they think about their current weight and they will tell you they are fat. Show them their reflection in the mirror, bones sticking out and all and they will still say they look fat. They see themselves at fat and no facts, not even the scale and the standard weight charts, will change that perception.

People with ARFIDO do not necessarily think they are fat.

They know they are thin, abnormally thin, but they like it that way. They become proud of their ability to stay thinner than most. They will keep up the dieting even when they know they are developing a health problem or nutritional deficiency because they like being one of the thin ones.

2. They don’t especially like food, food is the enemy.

People with ARFIDO will avoid many or all foods. They may need to resort to nutritional supplements to keep their weight above the critical go-to-hospital point.

3. They avoid putting on weight as they grow or in adulthood lose excessive amounts of weight.

They will continue avoiding food even when they know they are making themselves sick by their intentional starvation.  Like Pieter Pan, they do not want to grow up or get larger.

4. This is not the result of starvation or lack of resources. People with ARFIDO do this on purpose. The will harm their health to look thin while living in a home with a full refrigerator.

5. Because they are so good at avoiding eating, people with ARFIDO do not have the need for the extreme measures we see in Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia.

That is my understanding of this new diagnostic category at the current point in time. The new DSM will be out early next year and we can all get the full details then.

The update I read at the APA site was May 14-2012. They also note that when this is all done they expect there to be three subtypes of ARFIDO, A People who do not eat and are not interested in eating B People who will only eat food with certain sensory characteristics,  C People who won’t eat because of an aversive experience.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

So do you think that this creation of ARFIDO will improve recognition of poorly recognized eating disorders? Do you believe you or someone you know has had an episode of Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder? If you recovering from or have you had a relapse to Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder would you care to leave a comment?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Eating yourself to death – Binge Eating Disorder.

We used to ignore Binge Eating and only pay attention to eating disorders that involved inappropriate ways to control weight. Anorexia and Bulimia are well-recognized eating problems that were covered in previous posts.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Recently we have started to see how the overeating part can be a major issue even without the effort to control weight. In Binge Eating Disorder the emotional eating component takes place but it is as if the person with Binge Eating Disorder gives up and stops even trying to control their weight.

As in Bulimia, the food is consumed in a relatively short period of time, two hours or less. One episode of this behavior does not make for the diagnosis; Binge Eaters do these behaviors on a regular basis. The strict diagnostic criterion calls for at least one episode a week for at least three months.

Loss of control is a hallmark of this as well as other impulse control problems. It is not simply that the person likes to eat but that they are driven to eat. Even when they try to avoid the excess calories they are unable to control themselves.

Binge eaters eat faster than everyone else, they wolf the food down. And the Binge eater does not stop when full. They are unable to realize they are full until it becomes impossible to eat more. Even when not hungry the Binge eater will continue to eat for the emotional values of the experience rather than for the nutritional ones.

This eating disorder like other eating disorders is characterized by secrecy and avoiding others seeing what the Binge Eater is doing, they will eat surreptitiously to avoid notice. After a binge episode, the Binger may become sad, anxious and have feelings of guilt. They can begin to hate themselves.

Binge eaters are not comfortable with what they are doing, they wish they could stop but efforts to control their food intake are unsuccessful.

Binge eating is not a simple case of overeating, laziness or unwillingness to exercise. It is a specific psychiatric problem that includes the uncontrollable urge to eat even when full and the lack of any energy to attempt to lose weight.

Binge Eating may lead to depression or may accompany a mood disorder. Gradually the pounds are packed on; the Binge eater becomes isolated from family and friends and may begin to hate themselves but still can’t stop without help. This condition requires professional treatment. Treatment for Binge eating may be less widely available than therapy for other eating disorders because the health damage occurs more slowly, but untreated the ill effects on health will certainly occur.

There is a fourth category of Eating disorders, Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) which includes both unusual problems in food and weight loss and those cases that are not quite severe enough to get a diagnosis of one of the three principal types.

Three brief posts to cover four potential problems in the area of food and eating. There is treatment available for all of these issues. If you have experienced an eating disorder and care to share your experience, strength, and hope please leave a comment about anything related to Anorexia, Bulimia Binge Eating Disorder or any other topic related to recovery.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Unhealthy relationship with food.
Photo courtesy of pixabay

Bulimia Nervosa a relapsing eating disease.

Bulimia Nervosa is included in the eating disorder category along with Anorexia Nervosa but it is very different from the other eating disorders. Anorexia progresses like a vice, starving the sufferer until their weight reaches a critical potentially fatal low. Bulimia runs its course in episodes of extreme eating and efforts to undo the overeating and lose the weight until it finally does its damage.

If you didn’t hear the person with Bulimia talking about food, should you only hear the emotional component, it would be hard to distinguish Bulimia from the binge drinking form of alcoholism.

Episodes of binging and the resulting guilt can be triggered by many of the same things that trigger addictive binges. Poor relationships and conflicts with others, the feeling of deprivation from excessively strict diets, or feeling out of control all can trigger the binges.

Binge eaters describe these overwhelming obsessive-compulsive urges as emotional eating. Emotional eaters who do not purge develop Binge Eating Disorder. Those who start compensating develop Bulimia.

Most people who develop Bulimia start off at normal or even a little overweight. They are likely to be a little older than the beginning person with Anorexia, perhaps late teens or even early twenties. There may be a period of moderate to strict dieting before the Bulimia strikes.

When they diet they have increasingly intense urges to eat. The tension continues to grow until the individual can’t stand it any longer, then like the alcoholic, the binge is on. At this point, the “just don’t think about it” approach does not work and may make things worse. In a previous post “Don’t think about Elephants.”   I described why the “just not thinking about things” approach does not work and what else can be done in this circumstance.

Binge drinking is defined as 4-5 drinks on a single drinking occasion, enough to get intoxicated. Binge eating is described as eating far more than a normal person during a single food intake episode lasting two hours or less. Bulimics crave food and then when they give in and eat it is not a little, but a lot of food consumed in a short amount of time. This overconsumption results in guilt and regret.

These episodes increase in frequency. Typically the person with Bulimia will have two or more episodes of loss of control, binge eating and then efforts to purge the food every week for at least three months. The guilt over the episode increases the risk they will binge again.

Often the food of choice is ice cream or cake though no one food type is the choice of all people with Bulimia. They will eat until they reach the over-full point, become uncomfortable or even painfully full.

The Bulimic then tries to undo the excess calories by deliberate vomiting or other compensatory behaviors. This is not a disease of gradual overeating and excess weight gain. Bulimia may result in sudden swings in weight, both increases, and decreases. The damage comes not from the weight gain or loss but from the radical behaviors used to undo the binge episode.

The emphasis is on the person’s use of “inappropriate” methods to undo the overeating. Someone with Bulimia may vomit so often that the enamel in the teeth is destroyed. They may develop calluses on the knuckles from repeated efforts to force the vomiting.

There can be damage to the throat and esophagus. A great many medical problems develop over time but may go unnoticed as the person’s weight swings up and down rather than moving to an extreme.

Bulimia is more common than Anorexia with up to three percent of women developing Bulimia during their lifetime.

These episodes of binge eating and the resulting efforts to undo the overeating are generally done in secret. The sufferer tries to be inconspicuous and may withdraw from family and friends damaging their relationships.

Self-esteem for the person with Bulimia is dependent on body shape and weight. They often develop intense depression after a period of bingeing and purging. Some have undiagnosed depression before the Bulimia, but Bulimia can also cause depression and anxiety.

Bulimia Nervosa like Anorexia Nervosa is treatable but both require specialized treatment by someone knowledgeable and experienced in treating eating disorders.

Bulimia is not associated with a high risk of suicide or death from medical complications, though some who have suffered from Bulimia can become severely depressed and have thoughts of self-harm.

Bulimia Nervosa is an illness not a case of vain or selfish behavior. If you want to be helpful to someone with this disorder listen to what they have to say in an open and non-judgmental way.

If you have Bulimia, get help now. If you know someone who has this problem encourage them to seek professional help.

Other posts about eating disorders and the new DSM-V proposals will be found at:

Binge Eating Disorder – the other side of Anorexia and Bulimia 

Middle class and starving to death in America – An Eating Disorder called Anorexia

Love Hate relationship with food – Bulimia Nervosa

Eating Disorders and Substance abuse  

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.