Persons at Risk for Developing Bulimia Nervosa

Youth in our society are bombarded with images of fit men and women with bodies that are dangerously thin or nearly impossible to achieve.  They are told that this is normal.  In our culture persons that are overweight are judged harshly and characterized negatively.  Thinness and fitness are associated with intelligence, attractiveness, popularity, sexiness and much more.

Particularly in the teenage years, peer acceptance is incredibly important.  For the first time in their lives teens are experiencing the world in terms of their relationship with their peers and adolescents value the opinions of their people in their age group above all else.  To be accepted and seen as “cool” is what every teen longs for.  Often they will go to great lengths to do what it takes to be accepted.

For a person struggling with Bulimia, a vicious cycle ensues. Measures such as food restriction and often starvation are used to avoid extra weight. However starvation does the opposite by inducing extreme hunger and a preoccupation or obsession with food. Food is our body’s fuel and if we restrict our food intake, it will naturally begin to send us signals that we need it. These cravings drive people who are starving themselves to finally break down and eat, often uncontrollably.

The food that is eaten during a “binge” is typically high in fat and calories. However, the pleasure that accompanies succumbing to these intense cravings is short lived. It is immediately followed by the fear that weight will increase, others will realize how detestable they are and a terrible cycle of shame and self-loathing ensues. This motivates a re-commitment to the original starvation diet and the cycle continues.

The Bulimic Cycle

Chronic Dieting: Eating disorders can develop when a person has an unhealthy obsession with losing weight. People with bulimia are usually a typical weight for their height or are overweight and seeking to lose weight quickly.

Low Self-Esteem: Persons that view themselves negatively are at risk for an eating disorder. Specifically, persons that see themselves as unattractive, inadequate, worthless and helpless are at risk for an eating disorder.

Adolescence: Dieting among teens is higher than it has ever been. Gender is no longer a risk-factor. Eating disorders impact boys and girls equally at alarming rates.

Occupation: Many adolescents dream of being models, athletes and other exciting things when they are grown up. It is common for teens who aspire to work in an industry that values thinness or fitness to succumb to eating disorders. Specific occupations that increase this risk are; dancing, ballet, modeling, gymnastics, athletics and acting.

Emotionality: Some people are more emotional than others. Persons that are very emotional or have a difficult time managing their emotions are at risk for an eating disorder. In particular, people who have shown a propensity to cope with unpleasant emotions in unhealthy ways are more susceptible to developing Bulimia Nervosa.

Distorted Thinking: Persons who are prone to cognitive distortions are also at a high risk for developing an eating disorder. These are people who tend to blow things out of proportion, catastrophize or otherwise interpret words and events in a distorted fashion.

Significant Transition: Moving from middle school to high school or from high school to college, dealing with divorce of parents or other major life changes can often trigger Bulimia Nervosa. Persons moving into puberty and gaining weight are also more susceptible to acquiring an eating disorder as well.

If you or someone you love is suffering from Bulimia Nervosa or another mental health or behavioral problem, please call us for help at 1-888-948-9998