Bulimia can affect the brain in several ways. First, it enslaves the attention system. The longer one has bulimia the more his/her attention system suffers. In some cases people even drop out of school, universities, give up on good jobs – all due to their inability to maintain attention and concentrate on their work.
In bulimics, food over-stimulates the attention centers represented through the central nervous system. The abnormal activation creates a state of emergency which brings forth the manifestation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight response) when people think about binging food. As a result, the nervous system has to liberate more energy. The additional flow of energy into the human nervous system gives a feeling of relaxation or a floating feeling called a “high” during the binge.
When the binge finishes, the sufferer is soon drained out of energy and this causes a kind of a hangover and total depression of their attention factors this is the state between binges. The oscillation from over-flow to depression takes their attention fully and registers a shock on the central nervous system. That is why bulimics have difficulty maintaining attention on anything else except of food and binging. Such repeated experiences create enslavement of their attention and destroys their brain cells at the same time.
Secondly on a physiological level, brain function may be impaired as the sufferer doesn’t have enough glucose, lipids or other molecules that can be broken down for energy. Sometimes, in severe cases the brain even starts to consume its own tissue to get the energy. That’s why in chronic sufferers the brain may shrink as a result of lipids in the brain being broken down for energy. This can result in serious brain damage.
These people feel lethargic, confused, powerless and helpless. They can experience headaches, neck pains, back pains and other uncomfortable sensation in their bodies. Often, their aches and pains are of a psycho-somatic origin and not physical.
The brain can also suffer because of the effects caused by electrolyte imbalances. When people purge they lose enormous amount of important chemicals (electrolytes) which makes brain function slow or even impossible depending on the total loss.
Third, on a psychological level the brain is damaged by abnormal thinking patterns as the individual believes that they are overweight when they are clearly severely underweight or normal. Bulimics also have a fear of putting on weight. These abnormal thinking patterns are so strong that they overpower all other thinking processes. That’s why bulimics get so preoccupied with food, weight and body image.
To conclude, bulimia definitely changes the brain structure to an unhealthy level. It makes the brain think, differently, work differently, function and process information differently. The process of changing the brain is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity can be bad, but can be good it depends how the sufferer chooses to use it.
If bulimics start using neuroplasticity in a positive way they can reverse the damage which has been done by the bulimia and return their brain to a healthy level. And not just that; they can make their brain work like the brain of a genius if they use neuroplasticity correctly.