Understanding Atypical Bulimia Nervosa
To better understand the struggles of those with atypical bulimia nervosa, you must first realize how widespread eating disorders have become. Eating disorders, including ABN, affect over 30 million Americans and this number is only increasing as current pandemic pressures present themselves. (3, 12)
When the world feels out of control, many look inwards for areas of their lives that they can control, including their food intake and exercise routines.
Therefore, examining eating disorders should be done from a place of empathy and compassion, as each individual body has its own shape, size, requirements, and stressors. It is crucial to practice kindness for yourself and others struggling with eating disorders like ABN, in order for proper healing to occur.
Living with Atypical Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is among the top three most common eating disorders in the United States, with approximately 1.0% of those identifying as young women and 0.1% of those identifying as young men meeting the diagnostic criteria outlined by the DSM-5. (4)
Atypical bulimia nervosa is associated with a variety of challenges. Binge eating is a common symptom of the disorder, and people with this condition often isolate themselves during periods of binge eating. ABN is also associated with depression, anxiety, and other mood and psychological disorders.
Atypical bulimia nervosa is closely tied to mental health struggles, including suicidal ideation. Studies have shown people with bulimia or atypical bulimia nervosa, have an increased risk of attempting suicide, with over 31% of people with bulimia surveyed admitting to attempting to take their own life. (13)
Some people with the disorder may also have problems with substance use, with studies showing that of those hospitalized with an eating disorder, 22% of them also had an alcohol or substance use disorder. (4)
Coping With Atypical Bulimia Nervosa
While living with ABN can be scary, with the right treatment and support system by your side, recovery is absolutely possible. Learning proper coping mechanisms is a great way to boost your recovery process.
The most important thing you can do to cope with atypical bulimia nervosa is to adopt a proactive approach and take charge of your life so you no longer have to live with the effects of the disorder. You can do this by making positive changes in your life, such as seeking out professional treatment and speaking with a counselor and nutritionist.
Another key to coping with atypical bulimia nervosa is doing your best to avoid possible triggers such as highly emotional situations or confrontations. You also want to make sure you surround yourself with a stable support system to ensure that you’re in the safest possible environment conducive to healing.
If you're struggling with atypical bulimia nervosa, seek out treatment. The earlier you get help, the better your chances for recovery.
History of Atypical Bulimia Nervosa
While bulimia nervosa was added to the DSM-3 in the 1980s, it wasn't until the DSM-5 revision that atypical bulimia nervosa was added under the section Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). The entry for ABN was then updated again in 2013 and is now found under bulimia nervosa OSFED. (6)
Atypical Bulimia Nervosa in Pop Culture
Eating disorders have been in the spotlight for some time, especially with more celebrity and pop culture icons coming forward and sharing their struggles with various eating disorders. In the last few years alone, the topic of maintaining a healthy body shape and size has been plastered all over social media and television as people have been glued to their devices and looking for ways to maintain their health and well-being.
One study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders showed a clear association between social media usage and disordered eating. In the study, 51.7% of those identifying as female and 45% of those identifying as male started having distorted views on both eating and exercise. (7) The study also identified Instagram as the most popular platform used by those with disordered eating, although Snapchat and Facebook were close runner-ups.
Researchers believe eating disorders directly result from constant exposure to advertising for unhealthy diets and the compulsive behaviors that can often go along with such diets. (7) In addition, social media also directly impacts the way people think about themselves and their bodies.
Social media users have also been found to exhibit higher levels of body dissatisfaction, especially when it comes to image-based social media sites such as Instagram. (11)