Bulimia nervosa treatment
Treatments that are effective for bulimia include talk therapy, self-help, medication, and nutritional support.
There are several different approaches to talk therapy. In the treatment of bulimia, research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in helping you change your thoughts and behaviors around body image. One study found that family-based therapy—which involves intense parental involvement and a therapist trained in this approach—was effective for treating teenagers still living with their parents.
There is another option, too, that research suggests is helpful in bulimia treatment. Self-help, such as research-based online information or books, can be effective. These sources of information and reference can be a useful complement to help from a therapist or doctor. It is important to understand the difference, however, between Web sites that offer valid, research-based information and the pro-mia sites that either overtly or covertly offer tips for “being a better bulimic.”
An antidepressant may be prescribed to treat bulimia. It’s important to note that Prozac (fluoxetine) is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat bulimia. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, fluoxetine appears to help alleviate the binge eating/purging behavior and decreases the likelihood of relapse while also helping to improve your attitude toward eating. Medication should be used in combination with talk therapy, not in place of it.
Antidepressants are not a cure-all; in fact, they can pose their own risks. The FDA has issued a warning on the use of antidepressants for teens and young people under the age of 24 due to research suggesting possible increase in suicidal thinking and behavior.
As with treatment for anorexia, a dietitian can provide much-needed help during initial treatment by working with you to create meal plans and reinforce healthy eating patterns. A nutritional counselor helps you learn how normal meals and snacks regulate appetite. While nutritional counseling teaches the patient about healthy eating patterns, it’s often not an effective treatment by itself. It is most powerful when combined with talk therapy.