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Anorexia and bulimia

Understanding anorexia and bulimia and the possible treatments. 

Anorexia and bulimia - definition and symptoms

Anorexia and bulimia – definition

Bulimia is an eating disorder that is characterized by excessive or compulsive consumption of food, as well as purging behaviour aimed at eliminating the food eaten, usually by voluntary, forced, vomiting. 
Mental or nervous anorexia is the first eating disorder to have been described and recognized by healthcare professionals. It is characterized by the fear of “becoming fat”. The subject suffering from anorexia has a strong desire to lose weight, which is expressed in particular by an excessive dietary restriction (even total refusal to eat) and a distortion of the body image.

Symptoms of anorexia and bulimia

Bulimia mainly affects women. It is characterized by episodes of overeating (swallowing large amounts of food over short periods of 1 to 2 hours), and recurrent periods of purging (vomiting). The diagnosis is made difficult by the guilt felt by the individuals. Their weight is generally normal, and people with bulimia nervosa hide crisis episodes from those around them.
Anorexia is characterized by a voluntary restriction of food intake, excessive weight loss and a body mass index that is too low in relation to age and sex. Anorexia can, in some cases, be associated with episodes of overeating and purging.

The key figures of anorexia and bulimia

Anorexia and bulimia mainly affect women (in 90% of cases). It is estimated that 1 to 3% of women in France suffer from bulimia during their lifetime.
According to various sources, 3 to 4% of adolescents suffer from serious eating disorders. There are approximately 5 to 10% of severe cases, which present a vital risk within 5 years after diagnosis.

Bulimia and anorexia - risk factors

Eating disorders generally have a multifactorial origin (biological, psychological, social and environmental). There appear to be genetic and neurobiological factors that play a role in the development of eating disorders.

The levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that not only regulates mood, but also appetite, may be altered in patients with eating disorders.

Finally, several specialists denounce Western media culture praising the thin, even lean, bodies of young girls. This physique, highlighted in many communication media, could help generate obsessions about weight in young subjects.

What treatments for anorexia and bulimia ?

There is no single protocol for this type of eating behaviour disorder. For each patient, a personalized diagnosis is essential in order to offer individualized care.

The goal is always to reach a certain return to “normality”, both in terms of body mass index and food intake (in quantity and quality).

The care provided to people with eating disorders is based on multidisciplinarity and can involve physical activities, psychiatric consultations, discussion groups or regular interviews with a dietitian…

This management can be ambulatory, or in the hospital when the situation of the patient requires it.