Bulimia and anorexia are nutrition disorders with a mental background; both diseases can be fatal, as they destroy the patient’s body. Most victims are adolescent girls and young women.
These disorders affect 9 to 10 times more women than men. They are often related to dieting and pressure to pursue the ideal of beauty promoted in the media – a slim and perfect body, without so much as a single fold of skin or unnecessary curve. Although specialists have demonstrated that no simple parallel can be drawn here, the problem often starts with slimming.
These diseases must not be treated lightly, as they lead to the death of 10 to 20 percent of those who suffer from them.
Bulimia - a psychological disorder
Some symptoms and causes of anorexia and bulimia might be the same, but the two should not be confused.
People suffering from bulimia experience episodes of binge eating, characterised by extreme voraciousness. Patients can eat the entire contents of the fridge or pantry, but sometimes they only “devour" small amounts of food specially bought for this purpose.
Uncontrolled eating relieves the tension but ultimately leads to a feeling of guilt. The solutions sought include vomiting, taking laxatives, fasting or intensive exercise.
Anorexia or a repulsion to food
Anorexia nervosa involves the obsessive pursuit of low weight. People suffering from this disorder are extremely afraid of putting on weight. They exhibit problems with properly assessing their own appearance - even when they are severely emaciated, they believe they are obese.
Anorexics are on restrictive diets and heavy exercise regimens and adopt bizarre eating habits, e.g. they do not want to eat among friends or in public. They are eager to cook for others, but they never eat, obsessively controlling the number of calories or the amount of fat in their diet.
Eating induces unpleasant sensations in them - such as the feeling of fullness in the stomach or obsessively imaging that this immediately leads to fat accumulation.
Anorexia and bulimia cause a number of other disorders, e.g. problems with the alimentary system (flatulence, constipation, pain, heartburn), menstrual disorders, hormonal disorders, hypotension, problems with damaged organs, such as hair loss, skin problems. Inducing vomit also damages enamel.
There are psychological consequences, too - apathy, depression, problems with concentration, sleeping disorders, and also suicidal thoughts.
Psychotherapy is the basic treatment in both cases. The first and often very difficult step is to admit to having the problem.
Specialists point out that in both disorders the need to control your body plays a significant role. Patients go on for a long time without realising that this control is an illusion, as in fact it is the disease that takes control of their lives.
Disease as a lifestyle
In recent years there has been a rise in popularity, especially online, of movements that support anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle.
The pro-ana movement promotes anorexia – people who identify with it call themselves butterflies, support each other in slimming, write blogs, and post on discussion forums. Their symbol is a red string or a red bracelet worn on their right wrist.
Pro-mia is a movement promoting bulimia as a method of slimming.
A ban on promoting such initiatives and eating disorders is being considered in some countries.