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Chest Tightness at Night from Bulimia

by Lady A

Dear Shaye,

I have been bulimic for about two years and I have been suffering recently with what seem to be anxiety attacks during the night. When I lie down I feel like my chest goes tight and I have to force myself to breath, and sometimes if I breath in deep it makes me feel really light-headed and weird.

One night I woke up my mother (much to her disdain), as I was so frightened I was about to die from a heart attack. She told me to stand up and breath in deep, which resulted in pins and needles in my hands and me feeling like I was going to pass out because of the difficulty I had breathing. I drank some juice with a pinch of salt in (the closest thing to an isotonic drink I could muster) which made me feel slightly better. Have you ever experienced anything like this? If so, what would you recommend I do to remedy this?

I had heart palpitations recently, but they stopped a while before these episodes at night started happening. I have had two blood tests over the course of these two years, one very recently and they told me my results were fine, and so was my heartbeat.

Please help Shaye. I am so terrified to try to sleep, and as a result I am exhausted all the the time because I go off about 1-4 hours of sleep. What's worse is I feel like an idiot asking for help about this as its all my fault.

Thank you so much Shaye, for all that you have done to help others who suffer from eating disorders.

Shaye Says

Hi Lady A!

I can relate to your fears so clearly... I remember being terrified to go to sleep as I thought there was a possibility I wouldn't wake up. I felt crazy - so scared of something which I blamed myself for causing and maintaining... bulimia.

The truth is, blaming and being cruel to yourself only makes the problem worse. Your definitely not an idiot - so never be afraid to ask for help! As you can see, so many people suffer from bulimia... And, the bizarre thing is, often they are some of the most talented, kindest people you can get.

I remember having extreme anxiety attacks when I was 17/18. Usually they happened when I was crying or very upset. They gradually went away as I worked on my bulimia recovery.

Chest pains on the other hand are a lot more scary... They could be caused my a number of things... acid reflux, muscles, heart problems etc... It's impossible for me to say what are causing yours - but I can give you some suggestions to try and get rid of them...

Of course first of all I have to suggest that you go for regular check ups at your doctors. The electrolyte levels in your blood can change very quickly - so going once a year just isn't enough. Once every 2 weeks would be more realistic. This will also help to give you peace of mind so that you can sleep better and have a better quality of life.

Secondly, try to drink an electrolyte replenishing smoothie every morning - and hold it down for as long as you possibly can. Perhaps this could even turn into your first baby step in your bulimia recovery - holding down breakfast (which could be the smoothie).

You can get the recipe for the smoothie by downloading my free e-book "10 Steps To Bulimia Recovery"

You could even try to work this smoothie into your structured eating plan. I wrote about structured eating in my newsletter a while back... It's an important step in learning how to eat naturally again... Please read that article here and try to take action on it.

Another way to help eliminate as much risk from your bulimia as possible is to drink lots of water. Dehydration is a serious problem for bulimics - and can cause plenty of scary side effects. So grab yourself a bottle that you carry around all day long. Try to drink as close to 2 litres as you can. If you throw up any of that, of course, it needs to be replaced.

Most importantly, stress and worry can be almost as dangerous as bulimia itself! Try to relax a little... breathe deeply and remind yourself that your body is strong and capable. Start taking baby steps towards recovery - some of the steps above would be perfect. Then, next time you're feeling anxious and scared, remind yourself that you are working on changing your life...

Be kind and gentle with yourself... You'll get there, one baby step at a time :)


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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program