Diagnosis And Treatment Of Bulimia Nervosa

Published on March 20th, 2024

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Accurately identifying a case of bulimia takes professional consultation and assessment. Symptoms of bulimia can appear to be similar to other types of eating disorders, like binge eating disorder or anorexia. Proper diagnosis of bulimia is an important part of ensuring that an affected person is properly treated. 

Proper diagnosis is an important part of effective treatment. There are strict criteria to identify symptoms of bulimia. Each case is different, and symptoms may fluctuate and vary in severity. Bulimia is especially similar to anorexia, but there are key differences between the two conditions.

A person with bulimia will engage in and try to conceal binge eating behaviors. They will eat a large amount of food within a ~2-hour period. During a binge, the affected person will struggle to feel in control of their eating. They will also engage in compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain. This includes vomiting or other methods of purging the body of the calories consumed. They may also use excessive exercise or fasting to prevent weight gain. This cycle will recur at least once a week for at least three months.

Note: A binge is defined as eating an excessive amount of food while feeling out of control. Occasional overeating or overindulging may not be defined as a binge. Bingeing may occur for several hours and cause physical pain or discomfort. A person often feelings of helplessness or shame after a binge as well.

What Is The Difference Between Anorexia And Bulimia?

Bulimia has similar features as anorexia, but they are not the same disorder. Both conditions will involve poor body image and unhealthy weight management habits. While the presentation can be similar, these two conditions are different. With anorexia, an affected person will engage in restrictive behaviors. They will either be underweight or on the verge of being underweight. They will restrict food intake to the point of starvation. A person with anorexia may also engage in purging behaviors to avoid weight gain.

A person with bulimia will also have an unhealthy relationship with food, but their condition is more cyclical than anorexia. A person with bulimia will find themselves going through cycles of bulimia. These cycles may include fasting, bingeing, and compensatory behaviors.

The compensatory behaviors are typically either purging, extreme fasting, or overexercising. A person with bulimia will often show fluctuations in their body weight in short amounts of time. 

Treatment for Bulimia

A person who is suffering from bulimia needs to seek treatment. the condition can worsen if left untreated. It will have consequences on their mental and physical health. 
Medical and mental health professionals use a combination of treatments. They address medical, mental, and emotional issues that contribute to symptoms. Such emotional and mental health issues that may contribute to bulimia include:

A person with bulimia will either be treated in an inpatient or outpatient setting. For more severe cases, an affected person may need to reside in a rehabilitation center. This helps to stabilize their physical and mental health. They will be closely monitored during treatment in a safe space.

Proper medical and psychiatric care is often needed for the treatment of bulimia. Medical and mental health professionals work together to treat affected people. They develop an individualized treatment plan to meet the client’s needs. Treatment may consist of a combination of the following: 

It can be hard to participate in treatment for bulimia, especially in the initial months. A person with bulimia may be resistant to treatment. It can be very stressful for a person with an eating disorder to comply with their treatment plan. They are expected to let go of many unhealthy habits that they trust and believe are helping improve their quality of life. This can cause the initial months of treatment to be stressful. 

It takes patience, trust, and commitment to help a person with bulimia complete treatment. Mental health professionals who treat eating disorders are equipped with therapeutic tools for recovery. Common forms of therapy used for treating a person with bulimia include:

Treatment for bulimia requires an intense treatment and recovery process. With commitment from the affected person, their family, and their treatment team, they can recover from their condition. 
It will take time and patience for an affected person to recover. During treatment, they will learn healthy coping skills, that boost self-esteem. They will also improve their body image and self-love.

Bulimia should be taken very seriously. Seek help from a mental health professional if you feel you or a loved one is suffering from bulimia. This will prevent further complications and get them the help they need.

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