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What Is the Recommended Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa?

Nine percent of the global population suffer from eating disorders. The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) and Deloitte Access Economics estimates that in the United States alone, 28.8 million will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime.

The American Addition Centers adds that 1.5 percent of females and 0.5 percent of males in the country have suffered from bulimia.

In Westport, we’ve administered eating disorder treatments to many patients over the years. We understand the prevalence of these disorders, especially bulimia nervosa.

Knowing the struggles of the people who suffer from this disorder, as well as the family or friends of people who do, we’re presenting this overview of the commonly used therapy methods to treat bulimia nervosa.

Recommended Treatments for Bulimia Recovery

Therapists and clinicians who are attending to patients with binge-eating disorders can use different approaches in treating bulimia nervosa.

woman eating out

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with nutritional counseling

Harvard Medical School recommends a treatment program that uses nutritional counseling and psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy.

People with bulimia are trapped in a vicious cycle of binge-eating and purging. In their desire to get rid of perceived excess calories, they use laxatives or physically induce vomiting. There is also a subtype of bulimia where patients do not force themselves to vomit, but will exercise to the point of over-exhaustion or stop eating for one or more days.

What follows is ravenous hunger, which patients subdue by binge-eating in a matter of hours. Then the cycle repeats.

All of these take a toll on the physical and mental health of the patient, hence the need for both nutritional counseling and psychotherapy. This approach can heal the body as the patient is taught to acknowledge and change their distorted thoughts about body image. Healthy habits will help break the cycle of bingeing and compensation, while CBT addresses the cause of the patient’s compulsive behavior.

  1. Medication

Studies show that prescribing medication, together with other methods like CBT and interpersonal or family-based therapy, works best for treating bulimia nervosa.

The only drug approved by FDA for treatment of bulimia nervosa is Prozac. However, clinicians may also prescribe anti-depressant medicine like Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine hydrochloride).

Bulimia nervosa patients may have several prescriptions to address different symptoms. This happens when they experience comorbidities like anxiety, stress, depression, and substance abuse.

  1. In-patient treatment

This approach is ideal for patients whose disorder is so severe that they need constant supervision; for patients who:

  • live with people who enable their compulsions instead of helping them recover
  • need distance from people, things, and events that affect their self-esteem
  • thrive in a recovery facility’s environment
  1. Out-patient treatment

Not all patients respond positively to being admitted to binge-eating disorder treatment centers. Those who regress in these facilities will respond better to an out-patient program. This method encourages family involvement and support, which is very helpful to patients. They are also less likely to feel caged or restricted, and that sense of freedom and control can contribute to their recovery.

We can give you more information about these treatment options at The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health. If you or someone you know would like to know needs help to recover from bulimia, our doors and phone lines are open for you.

Start the road to recovery here.