Common Bulimia Treatment Methods

Treatment for bulimia at Eating Recovery Center involves a thoughtful fusion of medical, psychiatric, therapeutic and dietary interventions.

Medical Bulimia Treatment

Recovery from bulimia is a marathon, not a sprint. Changing ingrained bingeing/purging behaviors is hard and you’ll need support. It begins with careful, controlled stabilization.

The initial focus in bulimia treatment is to achieve medical and psychiatric stabilization. While many patients suffering with bulimia are a normal weight at the time of admission, some may require weight restoration in addition to other stabilization efforts. 

Our medical experts understand the urgent need to safely “detox” from bulimia and purging behaviors. Patients that cease purging will often experience abdominal pain and constipation after stopping their laxatives or significant edema, resulting in weight gain. The edema is a consequence of chronic severe volume depletion from loss of fluids (Pseudo-Bartter’s Syndrome). This syndrome is severely worsened by overuse of a rapid infusion of IV saline fluids used in most medical settings (for treatment of low blood pressure, dehydration, hypokalemia and alkalosis), creating a potentially dangerous scenario for patients.

As your body begins to heal, then your team at our eating disorder treatment center can begin to help you through the process of healing and lead you to recovery.

Medication or method type 1

Prozac (Fluoxetine) is the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of bulimia.

Medication or method type 2

Medication may also be prescribed for comorbid diagnoses like mood and/or anxiety disorders.

Psychiatric and Therapeutic Treatment Methods for Bulimia

Following stabilization, patients will engage in a thoughtful curriculum of individual, group, family and experiential therapy, as well as dietary counseling and education. Based on ground-breaking, evidence-based research, we offer therapeutic interventions proven to address the eating disorder and help our patients achieve lasting recovery.

Along with the therapies listed, bulimia symptoms will be carefully monitored and managed by our staff. If this is not accomplished, patients often resume purging behaviors to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms and manage anxiety related to the discomfort.

Counseling method or treatment 1 (family counseling, individual counseling, etc.)

Individual counseling is a part of treatment at every level of care for patients with bulimia. In this collaborative relationship, the patient and their therapist will monitor the patient’s progress toward their treatment goals, and explore specific situations and emotions that the patient encounters on their recovery journey.

Counseling method or treatment 2

Family counseling is an important adjunct to individual counseling in the treatment of bulimia and focuses on psychoeducation about the disorder and helping family members develop coping skills to support their loved one’s recovery. Family counseling is included in treatment at most levels of care.

Dietary Bulimia Treatment

Dietary treatment 1

Patients with bulimia will work with a dietitian to understand the patterns of their binge/purge behaviors and interrupt these behaviors through a regular pattern of nutrition.

Dietary treatment 2

The dietitian and patient will collaborate to increase the patient’s flexibility with a wide variety of food types, to prepare the patient to continue new patterns of eating after the end of treatment.

Goals of Bulimia Treatment and Bulimia Recovery

During the treatment process, the treatment team will work collaboratively with patients to develop and achieve critical goals that provide the foundation for ongoing recovery work. Important treatment goals for most patients with bulimia include: cessation of binge/purge behaviors, learning effective emotional coping skills, and exposure work.

Goal 1

Stopping the cycle of bingeing and purging is possible. This is achieved in treatment through a variety of interventions, including establishing a regular pattern of nourishment, psychoeducation about the cyclical nature of bulimia behaviors, and a supportive, therapeutic environment while the individual learns a new pattern of behavior.

Goal 2

Many people with bulimia identify that the eating disorder serves as a way to manage painful emotions, so developing a toolbox of emotional coping skills that can be utilized for downregulation and self-soothing is an integral part of increasing freedom from the eating disorder.

Goal 3

Learning to challenge difficult situations is the core of exposure work in eating disorder treatment. Whether this is a food item, a social situation, exercise, or body image, taking small, successful steps toward these challenging areas helps one build mastery and self-confidence without using eating disorder behaviors to cope or escape.

Learn More About Bulimia Nervosa

What is bulimia?

Although research about bulimia is ongoing, there is a lot you can learn about this eating disorder to understand how to get help or help a loved one. Learn more about bulimia, including the causes, symptoms and available treatment options.

What causes bulimia?

As with other eating disorders, bulimia has no singular cause. However, the evolving scientific literature suggests that this pattern of disordered eating develops from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological and sociocultural factors.

What are the health risks associated with bulimia?

There are many health risks associated with bulimia. Learn about the short-term and long-term risks to understand the effects of this disorder.

How is bulimia treated?

Bulimia treatment is unique to each patient’s needs. Medical stabilization, psychiatric stabilization, nutritional rehabilitation and weight restoration (when appropriate) are considered when determining a patient’s treatment plan.

Learn about bulimia facts and statistics.

There are many misconceptions about bulimia, including the fact that it is simply vomiting after meals.

Do I have Bulimia? Take our Bulimia Quiz.

If you or a loved one struggle with some of the symptoms described here, it may be worth speaking with a clinician and considering treatment options.

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