Like Anorexia, Bulimia mostly afflicts young women. Because binge eating and purging are practiced in secret, the incidence of the disorder is uncertain, but researchers estimate that as many as one-fifth of all U.S. women in high school and college display at least temporary Bulimic symptoms. The average age of onset is 18.
Bulimia can occur on its own or intermittently with Anorexia. In the intermittent pattern -- which occurs in about 1 case out of 5 -- a young woman will not eat for some time, setting herself up for a binge; she may use appetite suppressants in the non eating phase. Despite their overlap, the two disorders are associated with some different personality traits: Anorexics are apt to suppress all urges, including sexual ones; bulimics, on the other hand, tend to indulge their cravings, impulsively getting into trouble with drugs, sexual promiscuity, shoplifting or binge buying.
A Bulimic's overall health depends on how often They binge and purge. They may vomit occasionally (once a month) or very frequently (many times a day). The health consequences generally relate to the purging and not the binge eating. Physical repercussions include swelling of the stomach or pancreas, inflammation of the esophagus, enlarged salivary glands, and tooth decay and gum disease from vomiting stomach acids. Frequent vomiting also depletes the water and potassium in bodily tissues, causing abnormal heart rhythms, muscle spasms and even paralysis. In severe cases, some of these physical problems can lead to death. Another danger is suicidal depression.