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Worried about my vomiting daughter; MERCURY MEDIC DR JAMES BRISCOE is Medical Director at Woodbourne Priory Hospital.


THE other day I caught my 20-year-old daughter vomiting in the bathroom after she had eaten her dinner. She told me she often made herself sick, particularly when under stress. She doesn't see it as a problem but I'm worried that she might cause herself harm.

JULIE, Walsall

A I WOULD certainly see this as a problem, Julie, and would hazard a guess that your daughter is showing classic signs of bulimia.

This eating disorder classically combines bingeing, in which the sufferer eats large quantities of food in a short time, and vomiting.

This eating pattern is driven by emotional distress. Some bulimics feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with their emotions, while others aim to punish themselves for something that they unrealistically blame themselves for.

Whatever the rationale, bingeing fills an emotional void while purging then gets rid of the food, enabling bulimics to maintain a normal, or slightly low, body weight.

Numerous studies have shown that people with eating disorders suffer from low self-esteem.

And, as with many psychological disorders, the onset of eating problems appears to be precipitated by adverse life events or stress.

Signs of bulimia include:

Overpowering desire to eat vast amounts of food'

Obsession with, or feeling out of control around food'

Anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, shame and guilt'

Bingeing and vomiting'

Going to the lavatory after meals to be sick'

Using laxatives, diuretics or enemas'

Fasting and/or excessive exercise. Frequent vomiting can cause the following problems:

Stomach acid dissolving the enamel on teeth'

Puffy face'

Irregular heartbeats because of changes in calcium and potassium levels in the blood'

Muscle weakness'

Kidney damage'

Epileptic fits.

Treatment involves getting back to a regular pattern of eating. The aim is to maintain a steady weight on three meals a day at regular times, without bingeing, starving or vomiting.

The other important part of treatment is psychotherapy - talking about things in the past or the present that may have a bearing on the eating disorder and other personal difficulties.

The Eating Disorders Association provides helpful advice and support to those with an eating disorder and their families.

Your daughter's GP can also assess the severity of her problems and run some simple investigations to check out whether her health is at risk.

If YOU have a question about health and wellbeing, write to Mercury Medic, Sunday Mercury, Weaman Street, Birmingham B4 6AY, or e-mail
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 12, 2006
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