Bulimia Nervosa - Treatment Overview
psychological counseling and sometimes medicines such
as antidepressants. Treatment does not usually require staying in the hospital,
although this is sometimes needed. Both professional counseling and
antidepressant medicine can help reduce episodes of binging and purging and
help you recover from bulimia. Both are long-term treatments that may require
weeks or months before you notice significant results. You may need treatment
with counseling and possibly medicines for more than a year.
Bulimia that occurs with another condition may take longer to treat. And you
may need more than one type of treatment. If you have another condition that
commonly occurs with bulimia, such as
substance abuse, your doctor may want to treat that
People who seek treatment for bulimia or another
eating disorder may have other health problems caused
by the disorder. If you have had bulimia for a long time without treatment, or
if you have used substances such as laxatives, diuretics, or ipecac syrup to
purge, then you may have a health problem such as
dehydration that needs treatment first. In serious
cases, these conditions related to bulimia may require you to spend time in the
Initial treatment depends how
bulimia is and how long you have had it.
If you have no other conditions that need treatment first, then treatment
for bulimia usually consists of:
Antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac, for
example), are sometimes used to reduce binge-purge cycles and relieve symptoms
depression that often occur along with
eating disorders. They work best when combined with counseling.
Psychological counseling. Two types of counseling are useful in treating bulimia. They are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). In CBT you learn how to change negative thoughts that you may have about food, your weight, your body, or beliefs about yourself. In IPT you learn how relationships—and feelings about those relationships—affect binge eating and purging.
The goals of CBT are:
- To use nutritional counseling to help you learn how to eat three meals and two snacks a day and
avoid unhealthy diets.
- To reduce concern about your body weight and
- To understand and reduce triggers of binge eating by examining
your relationships and emotions.
- To develop a plan to learn proper
coping skills to prevent future
The goals of IPT are:
- To identify relationships that are connected to binge eating and purging.
- To learn how emotions that come up from these relationships are related to binge eating and purging.
- To help correct these relationship patterns, so that you won't binge eat or purge in response to bad feelings.