Bulimia Treatment

About

Bulimia Treatment

A deeper look into how bulimia nervosa is treated, who offers treatment, & treatment duration.

What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia is a psychological eating disorder in which the individual exhibits an obsession with losing weight. Bulimia is marked by binging episodes, which are then followed by periods of intense guilt or shame. During these periods, the individual attempts to lose weight, most commonly by inducing vomiting but also through excessive exercise, fasting, or other methods. Those with bulimia suffer from body-image issues, which are at the root of the condition. Bulimia has the potential to be a life-threatening illness.

Who is at risk of developing bulimia?

Bulimia can affect anyone. However, it most frequently develops during the teenage years and is more common in females than males. In fact, according to the American Psychiatric Association, there are 10 diagnosed females living with bulimia for every 1 male. Additional risk factors include a family history of eating disorders or other illnesses. Bulimia is also frequently present alongside other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and mood disorders.

What are the symptoms of bulimia?

The most common symptoms of bulimia are as follows:

  • Obsession with body shape and weight
  • A constant fear of gaining weight
  • Recurring episodes of food binging and purging
  • Feelings of a loss of control
  • Forced vomiting
  • Misuse of laxatives, enemas, diets, and other weight loss tools

When to seek help for bulimia?

As soon as you notice symptoms of bulimia in you or a loved one, it’s time to seek treatment. The earlier you do, the easier it will be to break negative cycles and restore your physical health. Your primary care physician will be able to diagnose you after performing a physical exam and asking questions about your health and family history. They may also perform a series of tests, including blood and urine tests, as well as cardiovascular assessments. If you’re reluctant to pursue treatment, confiding in a close friend, family member or colleague can help set you on the right track and provide you with additional support.

Where can you find help for bulimia?

Several different types of medical professionals can assist you in your eating disorder recovery process. At various points in your illness, you will likely work with many of these professionals on the road to recovery. They each have different strengths that can help you on the path to achieving your goal. The most commonly seen professionals include:

  • Primary care provider
  • Psychiatrist
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Nutritionist

What does bulimia nervosa treatment entail?

There are a variety of treatment avenues for bulimia nervosa. Which option(s) you pursue depends on a number of factors, such as age and condition severity. Some of the most commonly used treatment methods include:

  • Guided self-help: With the aid of a psychologist, you may work through a self-help book targeting your condition. This tool can help you monitor your eating habits, identify triggers, plan realistic meals, and learn how to cope with your emotions in a healthy manner.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy aimed at identifying and restructuring the negative emotions and thought patterns that give rise to your eating disorder. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, your goal is to transform your negative beliefs and actions into positive ones.
  • Other forms of psychotherapy: Depending on your individual circumstances, you may benefit from additional forms of psychotherapy in lieu of or in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy. Other kinds of therapy frequently used when treating bulimia nervosa include family and interpersonal therapy.
  • Medication: Only one medication is officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use with bulimia nervosa. That medication is fluoxetine (Prozac). When used along with therapy, medication may help improve symptoms of bulimia or co-occurring conditions.
  • Hospitalization: While most patients can be treated without hospitalization, there are times when the patient must be hospitalized for their own physical safety. Some facilities offer around-the-clock programs, while others provide day treatment.
  • Nutrition education: Another important aspect of bulimia recovery is nutrition. A trained dietician can help you design a diet that’s healthy and tailored to your body and lifestyle. It’s essential to eat regularly and not limit yourself, and nutrition education can help you better understand the importance of eating well and often.

How long is bulimia treatment?

One commonly asked question among those considering treatment is, “How long does bulimia treatment take?” Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast medical answer to this question. Recovery is not a race. Healing is not a linear process, so recovery may be filled with setbacks and relapses. The important thing is that you’re receiving treatment and working to overcome your body image and emotional issues. Treatment length also depends on the severity of your bulimia. 

Where does bulimia treatment occur?

Most patients will be able to conduct treatment from home, with occasional visits to a psychotherapist and/or other medical professionals. Some may need to be admitted to a hospital or clinical facility for serious health complications that result from bulimia, such as self-harm, heart problems, or severe weight loss. Even after the conclusion of your main treatment course, you may experience relapse. If you find yourself in this situation, contact your team of medical professionals immediately.

Can bulimia be cured without treatment?

Most people with bulimia require professional help to overcome their condition. Even after recovery, you’re likely to experience symptoms intermittently. It’s essential to have a healthy mindset and eating habits to recover, and treatment provides you with the support and tools needed to reach that point. For instance, tools like medication, nutritional education, and psychotherapy can help you address the underlying causes of your condition, expediting the recovery process.

Is bulimia treatment covered by insurance?

Insurance coverage will depend on your insurance provider’s criteria for treatment necessity and the state you live in, as well as the type of plan you have. Treatment cost will also depend on the level of care you need and how long you need it. Fortunately, most insurance carriers do offer some financial help for those dealing with bulimia or other eating disorders. In order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of your plan’s coverage, it’s best to speak directly with your insurance company.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2017). Feeding and eating disorders. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, May 10). Bulimia nervosa. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bulimia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353615.
NHS. Treatment - Bulimia. NHS Choices. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/bulimia/treatment/.

With Insurance

Behavioral Health

Your copay
Depending on insurance

Without Insurance

Behavioral Health

$240

Initial Visit

$99

Follow Up

Information

Medically reviewed by:

Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Dr Roy Kedem started his premedical studies at Harvard, and research in genetics and gene sequencing at Harvard, Beth Israel. He attended medical school in the UK at the Cambridge Overseas Medical Program in 1998. Dr Kedem then completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in Stamford, Connecticut and his fellowship in Hospital Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Affordable –
with or without insurance

With Insurance

Behavioral Health

Your copay
Depending on insurance

Without Insurance

Behavioral Health

$240

Initial Visit

$99

Follow Up