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Once I started coming to the meetings, I began feeling comfortable about sharing my story, and that brings a lot of peace and I always look forward to the meetings," said Reez, another member, who said she used to be a compulsive overeater and bulimic.
In the study, researchers found that bulimics are less able to control their urges and more likely to act on instinct than non-sufferers.
Diana, Princess of Wales was perhaps the most high profile bulimic, and publicity about her plight apparently led to a large increase in other patients coming forward.
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.
She added that bulimics are typically much easier to treat than anorexics and are much more likely to present for treatment.
Anorexics don't view themselves as ill, and bulimics harbor deep and isolating shame about their eating patterns.
Just as the smaller number of late stage skid row alcoholics conceals a much larger number of early to middle stage alcoholics whose unmanageability is showing up first in family and then in professional impairment, the small number of anorexics and bulimics who look like concentration camp survivors conceals many more early-middle stage eating disordered people.
Doctors often treat anorexics and bulimics with prescription drugs and psychotherapy.
Some have suggested that bulimics are difficult to medicate because they do not keep the medication in their systems long enough to absorb it.
Then there is Holly Ramona, a college-age bulimic, who, having learned from her therapist that 70 percent of all bulimics were abused as children, dutifully "recalled" how her father had forced her to "have oral sex with the family dog.
The investigators initially classified 3 percent as bulimic, based on binge eating more than once a week and frequent fasting, laxative use, or induced vomiting; 10 percent as "dieters at risk," behaving much like bulimics, but with slightly less bingeing; 29 percent as "intensive dieters" who often dieted and binged without purging; 44 percent as "casual dieters" who did not binge; and 14 percent as "nondieters.
An estimated 90 to 95 percent of anorexics and bulimics are women, mostly from middle-class and upper-middle-class families, and most begin practicing bulimia in their teens or 20s.
The team will study three treatments that may help adolescent bulimics.
Bulimics are often able to hide the disorder from others but not from their dentist.