Bulimia Nervosa Treatment

Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder that can cause momentous disturbances to arise within an individual’s life. Those who suffer from bulimia engage in recurrent episodes of binge eating, wherein they will consume a significant amount of food in a short, distinct period of time and will then go to extreme measures to rid the body of the food that was consumed. The act of ridding of the body of the food following these binge eating periods is known as purging and may be accomplished by self-induced vomiting, participating in periods of fasting, ingesting laxatives, diuretics, or other medications, or by exercising excessively.

People with bulimia find that they lack a sense of control over the food that they consume during their episodes of binge eating. These people also then struggle with such a strong sense of fear regarding the possibility of gaining weight as a result of the amount of food that was consumed that they go to drastic measures to try and prevent the weight gain from occurring. These individuals are plagued by strong and overwhelming preoccupations with food and the way that they perceive their own body shape and weight that they feel that they are unable to put an end to their destructive behaviors, regardless of the fact that they putting their health and wellbeing at great risk by allowing the symptoms to persist. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help those suffering from bulimia to overcome their devastating compulsions, put an end to their deadly behaviors, and regain the confidence needed to discover a healthier and happier way of living.

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Bulimia nervosa typically develops during late adolescence or early adulthood and is considered to be one of the most common types of eating disorders that people suffer from. In regards to all types of eating disorders, research has concluded that an estimated 24 million people suffer from some type of disordered eating, including bulimia. It is estimated that between 1% and 2% of all females struggle with the symptoms of bulimia, and the National Eating Disorders Association reports that an astounding 80% of individuals receiving treatment for bulimia are female. Most professionals in the field agree that there exists a need for further research to be conducted regarding the true prevalence of the disorder’s existence in males.

Causes and Risk Factors for Bulimia Nervosa

The onset of bulimia nervosa is believed by researchers and experts in the field to lie in a combination of various causes and risk factors, of which are described briefly in the following:

Genetic: Research has demonstrated that there are genetic vulnerabilities related to the onset of bulimia. It is believed that when a family history of bulimia or other eating disorders exists, an individual is more susceptible to experiencing the onset of the condition him or herself. Furthermore, when there exists a family history of other types of mental illness, such as anxiety disorders or depression, an individual’s risk of developing bulimia is believed to be higher than those who do not possess the same type of family history.

Environmental: There are a number of environmental factors that have been said to contribute to the onset of bulimia. For example, individuals who are exposed to environments where much emphasis is placed on food, dieting, and/or maintaining a certain weight are at an increased risk for developing bulimia or another type of eating disorder. Additionally, those who are exposed to consistently stressful or anxiety-provoking environments may be more vulnerable to experiencing the onset of symptoms of bulimia as they attempt to externalize their need to have control over something. Furthermore, according to the American Psychiatric Association, individuals who have experienced childhood sexual or physical abuse are at an increased risk for developing the symptoms of bulimia nervosa.

Risk Factors:

  • Being female
  • Family history of bulimia nervosa or other eating disorders
  • Family history of depression, anxiety, or other types of mental illness
  • Personal history of depression, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or other types of mental illness
  • Being the victim of sexual, physical, and/or emotional abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being obese as a child
  • Going through puberty earlier than average

Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

The signs and symptoms that may be displayed by an individual who is suffering from bulimia nervosa may not always be readily apparent to those around him or her. The symptoms themselves will inevitably vary from person to person based on the length of time that the person has been suffering from the disorder, the frequency at which he or she engages in the behaviors that are characteristic of this disorder, and the means by which the person rids his or her body of the food that is consumed. Examples of the various types of symptoms that may indicate that someone is battling bulimia nervosa can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge-eating, followed by the consumption of laxatives or diuretics, excessive exercising, or self-induced vomiting
  • Withdrawing or isolating oneself from friends and family members
  • Fasting
  • Participating in strict dieting habits
  • Frequently attempting different types of fad diets
  • Exercising excessively
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating behaviors
  • No longer able to appropriately fulfill roles or adhere to responsibilities
  • No longer participating in activities that one once found enjoyable
  • Frequent absences from work or school

Physical symptoms:

  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Menstrual irregularity or absence of menstruation in females
  • Irregular bowel movements
  • Fluid and electrolyte abnormalities
  • Dehydration
  • Significant and/or permanent loss of dental enamel from recurrent episodes of self-induced vomiting
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Internal bleeding
  • Ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Mouth sores
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Dry skin

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of proper impulse control
  • Experiencing a strong desire to control situations and one’s environment
  • Struggling with preoccupations, obsessions, and compulsions regarding food, weight, and one’s body shape
  • Chronic suicidal ideation

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Frequently oscillating moods
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • All-consuming fear of weight gain
  • Low self-esteem / poor sense of self-worth
  • Feelings of helplessness and ineffectiveness
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Bulimia Nervosa

When left untreated, the effects that bulimia can have on an individual’s life can be monumental. The health consequences that can arise from the prolonged presence of this disorder also have the potential to be life-threatening, which is why seeking treatment for bulimia is so imperative. The following physical health effects have been known to arise in individuals who are suffering from bulimia nervosa:

  • Kidney failure
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Ruptured stomach
  • Ruptured esophagus
  • Infertility
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Skeletal muscle weakness
  • Weakened immune system
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Facial swelling
  • Decreased sex drive

But an individual’s physical health is not the only aspect of a person’s life that will be affected by the presence of bulimia. The following are examples of other adverse effects that an individual may face should treatment for bulimia not be implemented:

  • Decline in the quality of one’s interpersonal relationships
  • Experiencing the onset of symptoms of other mental health conditions
  • Difficulty adhering to responsibilities at work or school, potentially resulting in job loss, suspension, or academic failure
  • Developing an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol
  • Beginning to engage in self-harming behaviors
  • Pervasive suicidal ideation
  • Making attempts at committing suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

The American Psychiatric Association reports that comorbidity with mental disorders is common among people who are suffering from bulimia nervosa, with most sufferers of this condition experiencing at least one other mental illness simultaneously. Examples of the various disorders that are cited as frequently co-occurring with bulimia include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Stimulant use disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

When individuals are battling the symptoms of bulimia nervosa, they can rapidly begin to feel as though they have lost control of their lives. For many, their minds become so consumed with the preoccupations that surround this disorder that they begin to lose sight of other things in their life that were once important to them. It can be a downward spiral that is extremely difficult to break free from. For this reason, residential treatment is often the most optimal option for providing individuals who are battling bulimia with the care they need to successfully overcome their devastating symptoms and rediscover a new and healthy life.

Residential treatment offers many benefits for those who are fighting the battle against bulimia. First and foremost, residential treatment provides individuals with the opportunity to step away from the stresses of their everyday lives and put all of their energy into the healing process. In this setting, people are monitored by caring professionals who ensure that they receive the appropriate amount of food needed for proper nourishment, while also helping them fight against their compulsions to engage in purging behaviors following any food consumption. Additionally, in a residential setting, individuals gain the benefit of being surrounded by others who are facing similar struggles. This helps people come to understand that they are not alone in the challenges they face, while also helping them gain a network of support as they work through the therapeutic process.

At Harmony Point Treatment Centers, we recognize the tumultuous path that bulimia can lead an individual down and have therefore created specialized treatment that is specifically designed to help those battling this disorder learn the skills necessary for overcoming their symptoms and achieving true and lasting healing. All of our residential programming is offered in safe, secluded, comfortable, and home-like settings that create an environment that is conducive to recovery. Each person entrusted into our care will be afforded individualized treatment plans that are customized to meet his or her unique needs. By combining clinical excellence with a variety of diverse treatment options, each program offered through Harmony Point Treatment Centers emphasizes recovery by helping each person build the confidence he or she needs to successfully transition back to a healthy lifestyle, free from the destructive behaviors associated with bulimia.

Do not let the symptoms of bulimia continue to control your or your loved one’s life. Let the caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff at Harmony Point Treatment Centers show you or your loved one the way to a new beginning.

get confidential help now: 877.941.7611 Email Us