Bulimia, "bi-polar", and the viscious cycle of meds

Something I have noticed in my ministry to Christian women with eating disorders is the high frequency with which well-meaning doctors medicate them - either with anti-depressants (the futility of which I've discussed before), bi-polar medication, or both. All this tends to do is make the patient physically dependent upon these chemicals (which may or may not affect her symptoms), while further convincing her that the life-dominating sin of bulimia is actually a "disease".

A few words about "bi-polar disorder" - it's the current diagnosis du jour. Years ago, people with severe mood swings were termed "manic-depresives", whereas now the label "bi-polar" has been expanded to include virtually anyone who has trouble coping and staying on an even keel. Although no laboratory tests are done, patients are routinely medicated and told they have a "mental illness" whenever they display the tell-tale signs: erratic behavior; depressison; bouts of (usually compensatory) high-energy behavior; lack of concentration. In fact, a friend of mine who is already a certified NANC counselor told me that of her adult counselees, more than half have been given a diagnosis of "bi-polar". Bi-polar disorder has become, for adults, what ADHD has become for children: an excuse to push more drugs.

If I used to believe bi-polar was a legitimate medical condition, I no longer do.

What does this have to do with bulimia? A lot. I strongly suspect that doctors are reading a correlation into the incidence of bulimia and bi-polar, based on two tell-tale symptoms: depression and a short attention span. To me, both as a counselor who has spent the last several years doing extensive research, and more importantly as a former bulimic, the reason for these two "symptoms" should be patently obvious - they are caused by the bulimic behavior, NOT by some mysterious, secondary "mental illness" which needs additional medication!

Let's start with the depression. I have never yet met a bulimic, Christian or non, who is not depressed (or at the very least convicted) about her behavior. The obsession over food, weight, and all things related grows; the bulimic instinctively knows she has lost control, and to put it in biblical terms, she is a slave to sin. I have quoted this before and I'll do so again: "There is no creature on earth more miserable than a disobedient Christian." Even a non-believer will eventually become depressed if she is mired in an eating disorder - she will lose friends, progressively isolate herself in a veil of secrecy from those she loves, and eventually see her health adversely affected. Bulimia also wreaks havoc on the endocrine system, which regulates hormones (I did not have a single period for over four years). The effects of ths on mood are well-established. The knowledge that she is sinning, if she is a believer, will cause conviction if her conscience is not seared, which will intensify her depression. Lastly, the spiking and plummeting blood sugar levels each time she binges and purges will cause wild mood swings.

Likewise, a bulimic has a notoriously short attention span. The reasons for this are both physical and non - the fluctuating blood sugar levels impact concentration as well as mood. Ever hear the advice not to feed children a sugary breakfast before school? There's a reason for that - sudden drops in blood sugar always lead to poor concentration. Add to that the fixation on food that is constantly running through the bulimic's mind and you can see why the attention span is almost non-existent. A "tape" loops again and again, re-playing the next binge; the next "fix" - providing an ever-present background noise to her conscious thoughts. She is scattered, jumpy, and emotionally erratic.

By the way, when I stopped purging and started digesting regular, well-balanced meals six years ago, one of the very first changes I noticed was a dramatic increase in both my physical energy AND my ability to concentrate for prolonged periods of time. Within as little as two weeks, the difference was amazing. Although I did not write my book manuscript until 5 years after I was recovered, immediately I found I was able to stay focused on studying or performing any task as the eating disorder became history. "Renewing the mind" is certainly a deliberate, spiritual discipline, but there is a physical component too - it's the way God designed our bodies. If you eat healthfully, you will feel better and your brain will (obviously) function better. There are enzymes released when certain foods are consumed that contribute to a stable mood and overall sense of well-being (serotonin and tryptophan among them). When you purge, the damage done to your body's systems (electrolyte imbalances; dramatic blood sugar fluctuations) will ultimately impact your brain chemistry.

You won't feel well, and you won't function at peak capacity. BECAUSE OF THE BULIMIA. It has nothing to do with "bi-polar", and you don't need to take more drugs (which will become increasingly difficult to stop, as you build up a chemical dependancy upon them). You need to start eating (and digesting) healthy meals - and asking the Holy Spirit to help you renew your mind.

You don't have a mental or "emotional" disorder - your emotions are working just fine. That's why you might feel like you need a drug - to numb them. The best way to FIX the problem, and thus overcome ALL of these symptoms - like fluctuating energy levels, depression and short attention span - is to decide today to turn away from the bulimia. It's a self-centered lifestyle that will lead to death (see my post "How do I repent from bulimia?" for more advice). Stop hiding in the bi-polar/mental illness smokescreen, and recognize bulimia for what it really is: a soul-destroying, life-sucking sin. Sin has only one solution, and it isn't Amitriptylene.

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