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Understanding Mental Disorder

Bulimia Nervosa

Overview of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is an eating disorder and research has shown it to affect up to 1.5% of women and 0.5% of men. This disorder is characterised by the immoderate consumption of food in a short space of time and then using compensatory techniques to eliminate this food from the body. These techniques are called ‘purging’. Purging may involve making yourself vomit or abusing medications such as laxatives or exercising excessively and/or fasting. Bulimia is a seriously debilitating condition and has a big impact on your physical and emotional health. Bulimia can be potentially life-threatening.

Symptoms of Bulimia

Are you obsessed with your body shape and live in fear of gaining weight? Do you eat immoderately large amounts of food over a short time period? Do you experience a loss of control when eating this food? Do you force yourself to vomit, exercise too much or use drugs (i.e. laxatives) to avoid weight gain? If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms, you may be suffering from Bulimia and should seek professional help.There are three main features in bulimia. 1. Binge eating episodes Binge eating episodes are characteristics by consuming what is an extremely large amount of food over a relatively short time period. This episode period might be about 2 hours, for example. Additionally, these episodes are accompanied by a lack of control. This is characterised by feelings of an inability to stop once having started eating in the episode. Some people might describe this feeling as an out of body experience or feel like they may have dissociated. Feeling as though there is no point in controlling eating any longer is also considered loss of control. 2. Compensatory behaviours Compensatory behaviours are things that we do to eliminate the food from our system to avoid gaining weight. These are purging behaviours. There are several different methods that people with bulimia use, however the most common is making yourself vomit. When vomiting after eating, people will experience a relief, both in the reduction of physical pain and a reduction in fear of weight gain. The use of fingers or objects such as toothbrushes may be used to induce vomiting. Some individuals may find that the vomiting itself becomes pleasurable and vomiting may occur more often or after eating small quantities of food. Another type of purging might be the use of laxatives or diuretics. Additionally, people with bulimia might exercise excessively to prevent weight gain or might fast after an episode. 3. Weight as self-evaluation People with bulimia use their body weight and shape as the main source of their self-evaluation and this is a main factor in whether they have high or low self-esteem. Individuals with bulimia therefore have an intense fear of weight gain and an excessive desire to lose weight.

What causes Adjustment Disorder?

The primary trigger for an adjustment disorder is a significant stressful event or major life change such as losing a job, moving to a different city, being diagnosed with a disabling physical illness or ending an intimate relationship. A combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors can make an individual more prone to develop an adjustment disorder. Several factors may contribute to how an individual responds to stressful events such as one’s coping skills, the availability of a support network and one’s financial situation. Other factors can lead an individual to be more vulnerable to developing an adjustment disorder such as the presence of another mental health condition, a lack of a social support system or being subjected to traumatic experiences in the past.

Treating Adjustment Disorder

Talking therapy is usually recommended for the treatment of adjustment disorder. One common type of talking therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating this condition is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Typical CBT sessions involve talking through one’s problems with a certified clinician, with the aim of understanding how one’s own thoughts impact one’s negative emotions and behaviours. Patient and clinician then work together to alter these negative thought patterns and behaviours, in order to improve one’s feelings and experiences. Therapy sessions are typically aimed at supporting the patient in coming to terms with and adjusting to the stressful event or major life change, diminishing the accompanying symptoms of the condition and learning coping strategies to assist in managing stressful events in the future. While medication is not typically offered for the treatment of adjustment disorder, it may be used to help alleviate specific symptoms accompanying the disorder such as depression and anxiety.

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