01/16/2013 02:54 pm ET Updated Mar 18, 2013

Top 5 Myths About Bulimia

Bulimia is an eating disorder that is often misunderstood. By acting on misconceptions about the disorder, well-meaning parents or loved ones of an individual suffering from bulimia may inhibit recovery and healing. As with common myths and misconceptions about anorexia, myths about bulimia are devised for any number of reasons, from simple ignorance to denial.

Breaking through the common myths surrounding bulimia nervosa can help lead to healing. Understanding the truth may be what leads you or someone you love to getting the help that is needed to overcome this deadly disease.

Top Five Myths About Bulimia Nervosa

1. Bulimia is always associated with vomiting.

Bulimia is defined by a binge-and-purge behavior pattern. After eating, an individual suffering from bulimia will attempt to purge his or her body through any number of means. Vomiting is just one of the methods of purging. Laxatives and diuretics are also common methods individuals with bulimia will use to purge.

2. Only women suffer from bulimia.

While more females struggle with eating disorders than males, bulimia can also affect men. Some men may be better able to hide their disorder, especially men who are involved in sports or athletics.

3. A child or teen with bulimia will grow out of it.

It should not be assumed an individual with bulimia will simply "grow out of it." Bulimia is a serious disorder caused by a number of factors. It is difficult for anyone to overcome the disorder without proper treatment. The longer it goes untreated, the more difficult it is to treat, as the behavior is more difficult to resist.

4. Bulimia is not life-threatening.

Through the binge-and-purge process, the body loses potassium and other essential nutrients, as well as electrolytes that are necessary for proper function and health of the body. Potassium and electrolyte deficiencies can lead to heart problems or stroke, both of which can potentially be fatal. Additionally, bulimia can cause ulcers in the stomach, which could result in the stomach rupturing.

5. Dieting causes bulimia.

It is possible to diet the healthy way, without developing an eating disorder. Bulimia, like anorexia, is often associated with a need to control. This is often deeply rooted in more serious issues than simply a desire to lose weight.

If you suspect a loved one is suffering from bulimia, do not ignore the signs. Seek help from a professional.

For more by Tennie McCarty, click here.

For more on eating disorders, click here.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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