Grief and Bulimia Nervosa

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope

Grief is perhaps one of the most powerful emotions that humans encounter. Whether resulting form a personal tragedy, losing a loved one or pet, experiencing divorce, separation, or abandonment, or countless other circumstances, the experience of grief can be overwhelming and even overpowering.

For the individual who is predisposed to developing an eating disorder, such as bulimia nervosa, or who may be currently dealing with bulimia, the experience of grief can be enough to trigger the disorder into an active phase of binging and purging.

When Your Coping Mechanism for Grief Becomes Unhealthy

While bulimia itself is not caused by grief, an inability to healthily cope with grief can lead to a progression of this eating disorder. Bulimia is the result of multiple factors, including biological components, environmental, psychological and social triggers. For example, a person who is genetically predisposed to having bulimia may be triggered by a traumatic event that evokes bulimic behaviors and tendencies.

When one experiences grief, coping mechanisms are typically activated to help an individual get through the experience. For some people who suffer with bulimia, the act of binging and purging can actually become a way of numbing painful emotions that are often endured in the grief process.

Binge Eating: Checked Out and Numb

I__m_Doomed_Now__Depressed_Now_by_TransplantMachineBinging often involves consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time. During a binge episode, a man or woman with bulimia is usually checked out and numb to everything, including physiological signals from their bodies that come with extreme fullness. Following a binge episode is commonly a surge of feelings, such as guilt, shame, fear, anger and more.

The act of purging offers a temporary relief from these emotions. Because grief is often painful, binging and purging can seem like a much less painful alternative. Individuals who are struggling with bulimia may find that this is the only way they can find alleviatation from their grief, even with the many negative consequences that result from this eating disorder.

Seeking Professional Help

Seeking professional counsel is important for healing from grief appropriately and healthily. If you are struggling with grief and bulimia nervosa, reach out for the help you need today. Bulimia will not help resolve your grief and will only result in more complicated symptoms.

Dealing with the heart of the issue can help you find healing and restoration.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Are you in recovery from bulimia nervosa? Did grief contribute to the progression of your bulimia? If so, how did you heal from this aspect of your life?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 11th, 2015
Published on