Inside Look

Debunking Bulimia Myths: Unveiling the Hidden Truth about Bulimia

Nov 03, 2023
The word "truth" printed on a type writer.

Bulimia is a complex psychological illness characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by purging. Those who suffer from bulimia live in plain sight of others, hiding their behaviors and often using dishonesty to maintain their secret.


Pop culture tends to make light of bulimia, spreading the misinformation that bulimia is a temporary tactic used by skinny white girls to fit into outfits for events. The overarching idea in society is that people either eat too much or not enough, leaving no room for those struggling with bulimia. The effects are damaging to the individuals who require early diagnosis and treatment for recovery and to society which requires education in order to stop the cycle of misinformation.

Let’s discuss some of the most common myths regarding bulimia.

Myth #1: Bulimia is easy to recognize

Bulimia affects teens, adults, females, and males of all races and ethnicities. Those who struggle can have smaller or larger bodies and utilize individualized ways of purging. Unfortunately, those with bulimia are exceptionally skilled in hiding their bingeing and purging episodes. Just because you see someone eating or exercising in a “normal” way does not mean they aren’t engaging in serious behaviors when out of your sight.


Myth #2: Bulimia is simply a lack of control

Bulimia is a negative coping mechanism used to deal with stress. It is not food-driven, nor is it completely geared toward a weight loss goal. Sufferers who may have originally started with a weight loss goal do not stop when they reach a certain weight. Bulimia is a psychological illness rooted in genetics, unique brain characteristics, and gut microbiome health. The illness is fueled by emotional dysregulation, stress, anxiety, and outside societal pressures. Those who suffer cannot simply decide to turn off the behaviors. Once the illness has become chronic, the behaviors are habituated and cyclic. The sufferer requires professional help to overcome the underlying causes and triggers of the illness.


Myth #3: Vomiting is the only form of purging

Vomiting is one form of purging used by some individuals with bulimia. Humans are unique and those who struggle with bulimia are too! Purging behaviors include excessive exercise, diuretics, laxatives, and more. Medications may also be misused to decrease appetite, prolong sleep, and boost energy levels all in an effort to prevent eating and increase the burning of calories.


Myth #4: Bulimia is not as serious as anorexia

Bulimia is not a one-time occurrence. The chronic nature of the illness increases the seriousness of the consequences. Purging causes rapid massive fluctuations in electrolytes, hydration status, and hormonal balance. The depletion can cause acute cardiac, gut microbiome, and brain health changes, along with stomach ulcers and severe dental issues. Loss of calcium stores can cause lifelong issues with bone health. Bulimia requires prompt diagnosis for medical intervention. This myth can be truly lethal, and you can read more about the many severe consequences on the Johns Hopkins Medical website.

Conclusion: The mental and physical effects of bulimia can be decreased with early diagnosis and treatment. Myths like those discussed ultimately inflict greater damage on those who suffer by causing greater feelings of guilt and shame. Society and families of those who are suffering need to become familiar with the truth about bulimia in order to provide the right kind of support. If you or someone you love is struggling with bulimia, please know that recovery is possible once you know the truth.

Author: Merrit Elizabeth

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