Bulimia Nervosa: The Signs, Symptoms and How to Treat It

Bulimia nervosa is a highly debilitating disease, characterized by an unhealthy relationship with food that leads to a cycle of binging (eating large amounts of food uncontrollably) and seeking methods to rid oneself of the food and calories.

The development of this form of eating disorder can be slow and insidious, but can have costly impacts on one’s body and overall mental health. It is vital that one seeks treatment early, to ensure the best possible chance of recovering.

The Different Types of Bulimia

Purge-Type Bulimia Nervosa

Individuals who suffer from purge-type bulimia nervosa often consume large amounts of food in a very short period of time. These binge periods are often out of the control of the individual and may be triggered by an emotional event. The purging of the food ingested may include inducing vomiting, abusing laxatives, diuretics or diet pills.

Non-Purging Type Bulimia Nervosa

Individuals who suffer from Non-Purge type will still tend to consume large quantities of food in a very short period of time, but will not engage in inducing vomiting, abusing laxatives or other medications used to rid the body of the food consumed. Non-Purge type may tend to over-exercise after a binge episode.

How to Help Binge Eating Behaviours

If you recognize that you may have bulimia nervosa, or other form of binge eating disorder, then it may be time to consult a physician on the next best steps for seeking help. There are many different healthy strategies that can be used to stop binge eating episodes and the emotional aftermath that comes with them.

  • Develop a healthier relationship with food- Use food to meet your nutritional needs, not your emotional ones and do not restrict yourself from eating, as this will only lead to a binge eating episode at a later time.
  • Avoid temptation- Remove the unhealthy foods from your fridge and cupboards that you know you tend to binge on.
  • Listen to your body- Learn to understand the difference between real, physical hunger and emotional hunger.
  • Eat regularly- Stick to scheduled mealtimes so you do not get over-hungry and engage in a binge.

Different Treatment Options for Bulimia Nervosa

  1. Drug Therapy- Many different medications can be used to treat bulimia and the psychological factors that cab lead to this disorder. The prescription medications commonly used include: anti-depressants , drugs to alleviate obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety medication.
  2. Psychotherapy- There are many different forms of therapy that one can partake in to alleviate the emotional issues that can lead to binge/purge behaviours. These forms of therapy include: individual psychotherapy, family therapy, psychotherapy with other bulimia sufferers, self-help groups.
  3. Inpatient Treatment Centres- At an inpatient program, patients remain within the treatment facility and will receive around-the-clock monitoring and treatment to ensure binge/purge habits do not continue. This tends to be an option for very serious and chronic cases.
  4. Outpatient Treatment Centres- Outpatient care allows patients to remain living at home, but they will still receive daily treatment and therapy sessions at a treatment centre. 
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