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Treatment of Bulimia Nervosa

Psychological Treatment for Bulimia

While the behaviors associated with bulimia are centered on eating and food, it's important that bulimia treatment address the underlying psychological reasons for the bulimia. Treatment for bulimia almost always includes some form of psychological counseling. This may be a specific type of individual counseling such as talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy or may be group counseling in the form of family therapy or support groups. Often, it involves a combination of therapies. It is always a best practice to get a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy is beneficial to work out the psychological issues behind bulimia, particularly where severe family dysfunction or a history of abuse are involved. Talk therapy involves one-on-one counseling between a licensed therapist and the person suffering from bulimia.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is gaining in popularity and is the most studied form of psychotherapy in the treatment of bulimia. This therapy can be done one-on-one or in a group setting and focuses on monitoring and challenging the thoughts and beliefs the bulimic has around food, eating and body image. Other components of CBT include:

  • CBT is short-term, typically 4 - 6 months
  • Patients set treatment goals
  • Patients may be asked to keep a food diary to record feelings to binge or purge along with consumed food
  • Patients analyze binge and purge triggers
  • Patients are challenged to not link their weight to their self-esteem

Group Therapy

Eating disorders group therapy can be structured or unstructured. Some groups have the expressed goal of delivering CBT or another therapy in a group setting, while other groups are aimed at supporting the person going through the treatment for bulimia. Therapy groups are usually led by a therapy professional, while bulimia support groups may be run by bulimics trying to help other bulimics.

Group therapy for bulimia may also consist only of family members of the patient or include patients and family members. Bulimia treatment involving the family is often essential to create a positive and supportive home environment for the bulimic. (read: How to Help Someone with Bulimia) This type of therapy also addresses how bulimia has affected family members and allows family members to get support from others.

article references

next: Bulimia Treatment Centers
~ all bulimia nervosa articles
~ all articles on eating disorders

Last Updated: 14 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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