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What are the Different Types of Treatment for Bulimia?

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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2016
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Bulimia treatment depends on the severity of the bulimia and how long the bulimia has been occurring. This disorder can be difficult to diagnose due to patients being of average weight, as opposed to anorexia patients who are significantly below weight. There are various types of treatment for bulimia such as medications and psychotherapy. Alternative medicine treatments such as hypnotherapy and vitamins are also available.

Medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers are used in treatment for bulimia. For instance, antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), bupropion (Wellbutrin), desipramine, and imipramine have been used. In addition, mood stabilizers such as topiramate, lithium, and valproic acid have been used where other treatments fail. Ondansetron and baclofen have also been used in treatment for bulimia.

Psychotherapy for bulimia is typically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is geared toward addressing the emotional challenges that bulimics face. People with bulimia often have difficulty in management of their emotions. Eating is emotional release, which means that people could binge or vomit at times when they feel upset, stressed, or depressed.

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Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a treatment for bulimia helps the patient cope with stressors and stop the binging and purging cycle so that normal eating can be resumed. Therapy also focuses on altering unhealthy beliefs pertaining to body shape and dieting and helps the patient understand that one's self-worth should not be based on body weight or shape. Also addressed are the specific emotional issues underlying the bulimia such as, for example, relationship problems, feelings of loneliness, a history of having been abused, a history of experiencing other trauma, life changes, or participation in an activity or career which emphasizes physical appearance and which makes the patient feel stressed or depressed. Therapy helps the patient learn appropriate coping strategies so as to prevent a relapse.

Hypnosis is used in some cases of treatment for bulimia. Hypnosis involves relaxation, using imagery, and using positive suggestions. There are psychological issues involved in cases of bulimia, and hypnosis is one way to bypass the conscious mind and address the subconscious in order to heal the patient.

Abstinence from substance abuse and not using cigarettes is helpful. Consumption of a diet that is free of alcohol, refined sugar, caffeine, white flour, excessive salt, flavor enhancers, and monosodium glutamate reportedly stops binge behaviors. In addition, taking vitamins such as vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin B have also been reported as being helpful in stopping bulimia.

Of note, it is possible that one could develop additional health problems like dehydration or a tearing in the esophagus as a result of bulimia. If additional health problems occur, then it would become necessary for the patient to stay for a period of time in a hospital or go to a special treatment facility for eating disorders. Indeed, recovery from bulimia can sometimes take longer than expected and relapse might occur. It is important for the patient to not give up, and if the patient feels discouraged or suicidal at any point during treatment, a physician should be immediately contacted.

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