The content on this page is focussed on specific eating disorders pertinent to this case. We have extracts from experiences detailed by sufferers of Bulimia with links to their online stories.
“I know this rigidity, this feeling that if you eat one thing that’s wrong, you’re full of self-loathing and then you punish yourself, whether it’s one cookie or a stick of gum that isn’t sugarless, that I would sometimes beat myself up for that.”
Bulimia is a secret disease. Because bulimics feel shame about their disorder, they typically try to hide it. It is not unusual for those who have it, to hide the condition even from their immediate family for years.
Once my binge was over, I’d quickly go and throw up. I’d rinse my mouth out, brush my teeth and wipe my face… Then walk away as though I had never done anything out of the ordinary.
I was exhausted… My heart was pounding, my throat was burning… But – I hid it all. I was fine.
My worst nightmare was Tom discovering my bulimia.
Bulimia nervosa is characterised by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge-eating is followed by a type of behaviour that compensates for the binge, such as purging (e.g., vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise.
Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behaviour is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week. Similar to anorexia, people with bulimia often have coexisting psychological illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and/or substance abuse problems.
The analysis of the 34 bulimic families, showed that the bulimics and their parents were hostilely enmeshed. Bulimics and their mothers showed a hostile relationship which was manifested by a greater percentage of mutual belittling and blaming as well as sulking and appeasing than found in normal families.
Women with bulimia described a family characterised by problems, tensions, threats, and physical coercion. They felt rejected by both parents with their mother lacking in warmth and caring and their father as overly controlling. They also experienced significant childhood separation anxiety, although they did not experience more actual losses or separations than the control group. However, they did display many problematic behaviours while growing up such as drug abuse, suicide attempts, and more general emotional problems.