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Social Sci LibreTexts

8.29: Bulimia Nervosa

  • Page ID
    23222
  • Name: Shelly Hunter
    Source: Hunger Point (movie, 2003)

    Background Information

    Shelly Hunter is a Caucasian female currently in high school. Although her age is unknown, she is presumed to be a teenager. A first look at Hunter gives evidential proof that she is seriously underweight. This raises serious concerns about her health. Hunter lives at home with her domineering mother, Marsha, and David, her passive father. She is the younger sister of Frannie, who is away at college and also struggles with eating. Shelly has a very strenuous relationship with her mother. As a child Hunter was always very slender, but she grew up listening to her mother lecture Frannie, who was not as slender, on the importance’s of being slim. Mrs. Hunter’s obsessive belief that being slender is the most important thing has severely distorted Hunter’s views on eating. Hunter clearly seeks approval from her mother and puts great strains on her body to reach that approval. Hunter’s life is devoted to her weight. Her time is spent obsessing about being slender. She does not know how to cope with her eating disorder and her irrational views on being skinny. The eating disorder is also causing severe mental problems with Hunter. She is exhibiting signs of depression and distrust from her family.

    Description of the Problem

    Hunter displays the symptoms of an eating disorder. She is abnormally underweight for her age and is very unhealthy. She exhibits the characteristics of Bulimia Nervosa. She eats very little when she is in the presence of other people. Most undoubtedly when she is eating in front of her mother, she becomes very self conscious about what and how much she eats. After restraining from food intake for a period of time she then will over eat. She stuffs herself with large portions of food. After doing so she begins to feel shame and guilt for over eating. The way she deals with her guilt is to self- induce vomiting. This purging is a defense mechanism Hunter uses to cope with “disappointing” herself as well as her mother. Although it only lasts for a short while, she feels satisfied with her body after vomiting.

    Diagnosis

    The diagnosis for Hunter appropriately fits Bulimia Nervosa (307.51).

    To be diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa one or more or a combination of the following characteristics must be present:

    1.Eating in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances; it is common for more than 10,000 calories to be consumed per binge.
    2.An abnormal constant craving for food; a sense of a lack of control of eating during an episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
    3.Eating is usually done in secret.

    Hunter displays the characteristics of 1 and 3. As described in the “Description of the Problem” she eats large portions of food alone.
    B.Recurrent inappropriate, compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain. Such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.

    Hunter exhibits these compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain. She fasts for a long period of time. She then will binge eat and self-induce vomiting.
    C.The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur on average at least twice a week for three months.

    Hunter began binge eating at a very young age and continues to binge eat into her high school years.
    D.Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.
    Hunter has a very unhealthy view about her body. She is constantly concerned with gaining weight. Even though she looks too slender and unhealthy to others, she views herself as overweight.
    E.The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of Anorexia Nervosa.

    Hunter will eat very little for a short period of time, and then she will binge eat to self-induce vomiting.

    Accuracy of Portrayal

    The average person watching this movie would see an accurate portrayal of the behavioral characteristics of Bulimia Nervosa. Hunter displays the onset characteristics of someone suffering from this disorder. Someone watching this movie would learn that having an eating disorder can cause many other problems. Hunter became very untrusting and displayed signs of depression. Bulimia Nervosa took control over Hunter’s life and began to affect her mentally. Therefore, the movie Hunger Point portrays an accurate depiction of Bulimia Nervosa.

    Treatment

    After fully examining Hunter it might be best to start her on some medications. To help with depression Tricyclic antidepressants or Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) could be prescribed to elevate her mood. Vitamin and mineral supplements would be prescribed until signs of deficiency disappeared and normal eating patterns were reestablished. The vitamins would also help to treat acid reflux caused by bulimia. After Hunter’s weight becomes stabilized it would be a good idea to start a behavioral therapy program. This will help to change the mindset of Hunter and her negative views about her body. This will also help to control her binge eating habits. Not only does Hunter need individual therapy, but she and her mother need family therapy. Mrs. Hunter needs therapy in order to understand that her obsessive beliefs, about being slender, caused her daughter to become diagnosed with bulimia nervosa. Communication exercises will be exhibited to help resolve conflict and re-establishing boundaries. The treatments will better help Hunter to have control over Bulimia Nervosa and to gradually overcome the disorder.

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    Name: Blair Waldorf

    Source: Gossip Girl (television series, 2007-present)

    Background Information

    Blair Waldorf is a 16 year old female who lives in Manhattan, New York. She is a full time student, and attends a private high school. She is in good health, and her family is in good mental health. Her parents are divorced, mother in Manhattan and father in Paris. She has a great relationship with her father, but he left his family for a male model, so Blair suffers slightly with separation anxiety and depression. Her mother has very high status in Manhattan, and would do anything to keep it that way. Blair and her mother get into arguments every now and then, but no more than a normal teen and her mother. Blair is an only child. Serena is Blair’s best friend and has been since they were little. Blair is snobbier of the two, and Serena keeps her grounded without going overboard. They often get into tiffs, but always end up making up. Blair’s ex-boyfriend is Nate. They dated from age 5 until 16. Dealing with the breakup of her longtime lover, Blair goes a little crazy and her separation anxiety and depression shows up again. Blair drinks often, and for some reason in the world that she lives in, adults do not seem to care. She could walk into a bar and drink martinis all night, and it would be completely normal. She does not do drugs, however. Her biggest life difficulty is staying queen bee at her high school. She goes through a lot throughout the show, but staying the most popular girl in school is always her top priority. Her number one goal is to attend Yale after she graduates, and later become a trophy wife just like her mother was. Blair copes with her problems by putting other people down. She loves the fact that she is at the top of the totem pole, and she is not afraid to let anyone and everyone know it. She also often uses alcohol to cope with her problems.

    Description of the Problem

    During the first season of Gossip Girl, the fact that Blair had been to treatment in her past comes up a few times. Blair’s eating habits are normal for the first few episodes, but after she experiences different stressors, her eating habits become abnormal again. She starts to pick at food most of the time, but binges at other times. Also, her best friend Serena and her mother started to bring up the fact that her symptoms were returning. She completely closed them off and ignored the fact that they were. Every time that she would get into a fight with Serena, her ex boyfriend, or her mother, her lack of control for eating would return. One incident that was shown on the show was that Blair had gotten into a huge fight with Serena on Thanksgiving, which caused Blair to be extremely snappy with her mother. She found out that her mother lied to her about her father coming into town for the holiday, which caused a fight with her mother as well. She was picking at her Thanksgiving meal during dinner, and when her mother told her to go pick out a dessert, she stormed off to the kitchen. She found an apple pie that she wanted to eat, but instead of just taking one piece, she stared at it for a few minutes, and binged and ate the entire pie. Immediately, she went into her bathroom and started to purposely vomit. She has always had an issue with her self-image, and the binging and purging was her solution to make herself feel better. After vomiting in her bathroom, she called Serena, and she quickly came over and let Blair cry on her shoulder. This is not the only incident that Blair had with binging and purging, but it was a very critical event to Blair’s illness.

    Diagnosis

    The diagnosis for Blair Waldorf fits most appropriately with Bulimia Nervosa (307.51).
    To be diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa, you must have the following characteristics:

    1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by the following:
      1. Eating in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is larger than most people would eat during a similar period of time and under similar circumstances.
      2. A sense of lack of control of eating during an episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

    Blair Waldorf displays both of these characteristics. When she has an episode, it is as if she cannot control what food she is putting into her body, or how much food she is putting into her body.

    1. Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, fasting, or excessive exercise.

    Blair Waldorf will do whatever she thinks is necessary to prevent weight gain, and her methods of choice are self-induced vomiting and fasting.

    1. The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for three months.

    The television show does not state what age Blair Waldorf started binge eating, but while she was only 16 years old, her mother discussed Blair already having gone to treatment for her Bulimia. So this must have been a problem in her life for quite a few years.

    1. Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

    Blair Waldorf is very self conscious of her body image and her weight. Her mother mentions a few times that she needs to watch her weight, so this may have helped lead to Blair’s body image issues.

    1. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa.

    Blair Waldorf will eat a very small amount and continue to pick at food at every meal, until another episode of binging and purging occurs.

    Accuracy of Portrayal

    The average person watching Gossip Girl and watching Blair with her eating disorder would learn the behavioral characteristics of Bulimia Nervosa. Someone watching this television show would understand that it is a disorder that a person cannot necessarily always control. There can be triggers that can lead to an episode, just like any other illness. This portrayal is accurate of Bulimia Nervosa. However, the show does not show the seriousness as much as it should of this disorder. It was mislabeled in this way because it has affected Blair’s mental health, so any issue in her life that leads to her showing any signs of depression will most likely lead to an episode. This is her way of dealing with problems in her life, and Gossip Girl does not show the severity of this.

    Treatment

    After evaluating Blair Waldorf’s condition, it would be best to start her with a behavioral therapy program. She was not taught the proper way to handle her emotions and deal with problems that arise in her life, and therapy would help approach these issues. Therapy could also approach her body image issues, and help her to devise an exercise program that would make her feel more in shape and healthy. Her mother and her friends would have to help monitor her eating habits, but after understanding her condition fully and seeing that there are other ways of dealing with issues, Blair would take on a better eating schedule. Also, putting Blair on a very low dosage antidepressant or Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) and monitoring her progress very closely while on this medication would help a great deal. Communication exercises will also be necessary between Blair and her mother to teach them how to discuss this illness in a healthier manner. These different treatments will, in time, help Blair overcome this disorder. She will be able to talk about her feelings and problems, rather than regressing to binging and purging.

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