Those who suffer from bulimia have behavior that is characterized by over eating binges and subsequent inappropriate behavior to prevent weight gain that can manifest itself with purging, such as induced vomiting or excessive exercise.
In contrast, panic attacks are sudden surges of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without an obvious reason. They are far more intense than feeling anxiety or feeling stressed out.
Statistics shows that one out of every 75 people will experience one panic attack in their lives.
The combination of bulimia and panic attack disorder makes the treatment of either more complicated than a single disorder.
Increased Eating Disorder Risk
Interestingly, if you have an anxiety disorder then there is an increased risk of having an eating disorder and if you have an eating disorder then there is an increased risk of having an anxiety disorder.
Not everyone has both, but it’s not unusual to for both of them to go hand in hand.
In any given year, about 1/3 of Americans suffer at least one panic attack but most don’t develop a repeat episode. This data means that panic and anxiety attacks are the most common emotional disorder and also has the lowest rate of seeking and finding help.
Symptoms of a panic attack include a fast heartbeat, difficulty breathing, terror, nervousness, feeling of dread, dizziness, trembling, chest pain, fear, fright, hot flashes, tingling in the fingers or toes and fearful that you’re going crazy or about to die.
Although a very real physical phenomenon, panic attacks have never killed anyone, never harmed anyone and the attacks always come to an end.
Bulimia with Panic Attacks
The percentage of people who have both bulimia and panic attacks or other eating disorders varies from study to study. In a study of 114 women in England, 64% were found to have both while a study in Australia found that 21% had both disorders.
In a study of 1500 women in Russia, an astounding 95% were found to have both conditions.
Whatever the percentage of people suffering from both, most researchers have found that the anxiety disorder was the first to appear and the eating disorder was soon to follow.
If you have a known anxiety disorder you should know the signs and symptoms of binge eating, anorexia and bulimia so you might recognize the disorder in yourself. The sooner that you receive help the better are the chances of a recovery.
If you have an eating disorder educate yourself about the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders and panic attacks so that you can seek help for this as well if it’s appropriate.
When a person suffers from both disorders for a long period of time the likelihood that they will recover from the symptoms decreases greatly. The greatest chance for recovery comes in the first several months with the results declining with each passing month thereafter.
For More Information:
Vanderbilt University: The Comorbidity of Anxiety Disorders and Eating Disorders
Bulimia Help: Does Anyone Else Get Panic Attacks
The American Journal of Psychiatry: Cormorbidity of Anxiety Disorders with Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa
Comprehensive Psychiatry: Lifetime Anxiety Disorders in Women with Bulimia Nervosa
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Eating Disorders
Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr