Bulimia is a type of eating disorder that can damage a person’s body and self-image. In fact, it can even prove to be life threatening. An individual with bulimia has an extremely unhealthy attitude toward weight and eating. She feels a compulsion to binge and then get rid of the calories. This often takes the form of vomiting or using laxatives, but can also include fasting. Read on to learn the therapeutic options for treating bulimia.
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The most commonly used therapy for the treatment of bulimia, cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help bulimics recognize the negative thoughts and beliefs that lead to their unhealthy symptoms. For example, a cognitive behavioral therapist may help a bulimic person recognize that her beliefs regarding severe calorie restrictions are false. Severely restricting calorie intake is likely to lead to food binges that contribute to weight gain rather than facilitating weight loss.
Often, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on helping bulimic patients in two different stages. Initially, therapy is focused on helping the bulimic person to stop binging and purging, substituting these habits for healthy eating patterns. During this stage, a therapist may help her patient begin to avoid binging triggers, monitor patterns of eating, and concentrate on eating at regular meal times in order to reduce cravings that lead to binging. This stage of therapy may also help the patient to develop healthy ways of handling stress and resisting the compulsion to purge.
The next goal of cognitive therapy treatment is usually changing the unhealthy beliefs that lead to binging and purging. For example, bulimics typically have a poor self-image and problematic beliefs about weight and diet. This part of therapy seeks to help the patient separate her self-esteem from her weight and eating habits. It also works to help a patient recognize how her emotions are related to how and what she eats.
2. Family Therapy
This type of therapy may also be used to treat bulimic patients and is particularly helpful for children, adolescents and young adults struggling with this eating disorder. Often family therapy concentrates on ways family members may help the patient to develop healthy eating habits and reach a healthy weight. Family therapy may also concentrate on tackling family dynamics and conflicts that could contribute to the problem or impede the patient’s progress.
This is a type of group therapy. Particulary helpful for those with minor cases of bulimia, this type of therapy educates patients about the genetic influences that help determine how a person’s body will be shaped and how much she will weigh. It also explores the things that make a person feel pressure to be thin, including social expectations.
Some doctors or therapists prescribe antidepressants for those struggling with bulimia. They are typically used along with therapy to help reduce a person’s urge to binge. Antidepressants may help not only to treat the depression that may accompany bulimia, but also to reduce preoccupation with weight.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specifically approved fluoxetine (Prozac) for the treatment of bulimia. However, doctors may recommend other antidepressants as well. Sometimes doctors also prescribe medications to control anxiety for the treatment of bulimia.