Many people who lack direct experience with eating disorders think of bulimia nervosa as a single disorder, but there are actually different types of this common eating disorder. Some bulimia sufferers do fit into the binge-and-purge cycle most commonly associated with the disorder, but others manifest their food anxieties in other ways.
Whether you are concerned about a loved one or worried about yourself, it is important to look at the various forms bulimia can take.
Binge and Purge Bulimia
The binge-and-purge form of bulimia is the most closely associated with this eating disorder. Those who suffer from this type of bulimia appear to eat normally or even excessively, but they force themselves to throw up in an attempt to avoid weight gain and soothe food-related anxieties.
Binge and Starve Bulimia
The binge-and-starve cycle is another type of bulimia, albeit one that is not as widely recognized. This manifestation of bulimia nervosa is just what it sounds like: the sufferer again appears to eat normally or even to success, but these meals are followed by periods of self-induced starvation.
This kind of extreme dieting interspersed with normal eating can lower metabolism by tricking the body into thinking it is starving. That in turn makes losing weight even harder, setting up a vicious cycle and exacerbating the eating disorder.
Binge and Exercise Bulimia
The third type of bulimia is the binge-and-exercise variety, and this eating disorder variant has its own set of dangers. Binge eating can create real problems with metabolism, while excessive exercise can make injuries more likely. It is not always easy to spot this type of eating disorder, but it is important for loved ones to watch for signs. Excessive exercise can become a compulsion, and it can make an existing eating disorder even worse.
Help Is Available
If you are concerned that you or someone in your life is suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to get professional help as quickly as possible. Any form of bulimia nervosa can quickly lead to a downward spiral—one that becomes increasingly difficult to control. Getting help quickly is the best way to help yourself or your loved one to recover and enjoy a balanced relationship with food.