Do you think you could suffer from the eating disorder known as bulimia nervosa? Are those eating problems interfering with your life? Approximately 4% of women in the United States will experience bulimia in their lifetime, and only 6% will receive treatment. X Research Source If you think you have bulimia or are seeking treatment, there are a few options you can explore.
Help you overcome bulimia
Find out if you have bulimia. It is not advisable that you carry out a self-diagnosis to see if you suffer from a psychiatric illness. If you suspect that you might need help, see a medical professional, especially if you fit the following criteria:
You binge eat or consume larger than normal amounts of food at one time.
You feel a lack of control over these binges.
You purge and use other methods to keep from gaining weight, such as vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics to compensate for overeating, fasting, or over-exercising. Bulimic people do it at least once a week for three months.
Body image issues, where your self-esteem is disproportionately defined by how you look (weight, shape, etc.) compared to other factors.
Identify your triggers. If you want to raise awareness around the condition, try to discover your emotional triggers. These triggers are events and situations that affect your emotional state and cause you to urge to overeat and purge. Once you know what they are, you can avoid them as much as possible or at least try to approach them differently. Here are some of the common triggers:
Negative perceptions towards your body. Do you look in the mirror and experience negative thoughts and emotions about your appearance?
Interpersonal stress. Do fights with a parent, sibling, friend, or significant other make you want to engage in bulimic activity?
Negative moods are triggered more generally. Anxiety, sadness, frustration, and other moods can precipitate the desire to gorge on food and purge.
Learn about intuitive eating. Traditional diet programs are generally not effective in treating eating disorders and may actually exacerbate symptoms. However, intuitive eating can help you recognize your relationship with food. This is a learning method that allows you to listen and respect your body developed by dietitian Evelyn Tribole and nutrition therapist Elyse Resch. It can help:
Develop an interoceptive awareness. Interoception is your ability to perceive what is going on inside your body as well as a need to create a healthier awareness of what your body wants and needs. Impairments in interoception have been shown to be correlated with eating disorders.
Achieve greater self-control. Intuitive eating is linked to decreased disinhibition, loss of control, and binge eating.
Feel better in general. Intuitive eating is also linked to general improvements in well-being (eg less worry about physical problems, higher self-esteem, etc.).
Write a journal. Keeping a bulimia-related journal will help you stay on top of what and when you eat, what triggers your eating disorder symptoms, and also serves as a way to express your feelings.
Buy only enough food. Don’t stuff yourself with groceries so you don’t have many opportunities to overeat. Plan ahead and carry as little money as possible. If someone else is doing your shopping for you, like your dad, ask them to take your dietary needs into account.
Plan your meals. Opt to have three or four meals and two snacks scheduled at set times of the day, so you know when you’ll eat and can stick to those predetermined times. Build it into a routine to stay one step ahead of impulsive behavior.
Ask for help from professionals and colleagues
Seek therapy. Therapeutic interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy have been shown to aid recovery and have long-lasting effects. If you live in the United States, you can visit psychologytoday.com to find a therapist near you who specializes in these models. You can also look for one who specializes in eating disorders.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy aims to try to restructure your thoughts and behaviors so that self-destructive tendencies originating from these aspects are replaced by healthier ways of thinking and behaving. If you binge eat and purge due to deep-seated beliefs about yourself, as many people do, cognitive behavioral therapy can help revise the basis for those thoughts and expectations.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on relationships and personality structure rather than more clearly defined patterns of thought and behavior, so it may be more effective if you want less direct behavioral instructions or cognitive restructuring and are looking to focus more on your relationships with your family, friends and even with yourself.
The therapeutic alliance is one of the most important factors in the effectiveness of therapy, so make sure you find a therapist you can work with. It may take a while to find someone you feel comfortable with, but it can mean the difference between recovery or relapse, so don’t settle!
Explore the alternatives concerning medications. In addition to therapy, some psychiatric medications can help treat bulimia. The main medications recommended for eating disorders are antidepressants, especially SSRIs such as fluxoetin (Prozac).
Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist about antidepressants for bulimia.
Medications are more effective in treating some mental conditions if they are taken in conjunction with therapy rather than on their own.
Join a support group. While there isn’t a lot of research to support the effectiveness of joining a support group for people with eating disorders, some people find groups such as Binge Overeaters Anonymous helpful as a secondary treatment.
If you live in the United States, click here for a website to help you find a support group near where you live.
Consider undergoing inpatient treatment. If you have a severe case of bulimia, consider inpatient treatment at a mental health facility. This will give you access to higher levels of medical and psychiatric care compared to self-guided methods, outpatient therapy, and support groups. You may need hospital treatment if you have any of the following conditions:
Your health is deteriorating or your life is threatened as a result of bulimia.
You have tried other treatment methods in the past and relapsed.
You have additional health complications, such as diabetes.
Look for recovery websites. Many people use online forums to seek help during the process of recovering from an eating disorder. These websites can be an important source of interpersonal support, allowing those suffering from these conditions to discuss the specific difficulties of living with eating disorders with others experiencing similar problems. Here are some websites you might want to visit:
Psychcentral.com Eating Disorder Forum
Forum of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
Enlist the help of family and friends
Learn about your support system. Research suggests that family support can play an important role in the recovery process. To give yourself the best possible chance of recovery, educate your family and close friends about the condition. This will cultivate a social environment where recovery can begin to take place. Use websites like the Brown University Health Education Center and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) guide to help a friend with an eating disorder.
Invite friends and family to attend educational events. Check with your local university, hospital or mental health clinic for information regarding bulimia-oriented educational events. These events will help those who are close to you discover how they can help you during your recovery process. They will learn healthy communication techniques as well as general information about bulimia nervosa.
Be clear about your needs. Maybe your family and friends want to support you, but they probably don’t have a clear idea of how to do it. Let them help you by making it clear what you need from them. If you have particular concerns regarding your diet or just feel like you’re being judged for your eating activities, voice these concerns!
Some research links bulimia to parenting styles where rejection, ambivalence, or overinvolvement is expressed. If your parents exhibit these types of parenting, talk to them about what you lack or get too much of in terms of attention. If your dad checks on you all the time when he eats, tell him that you appreciate his concern, but that overinvolvement actually makes you feel more negative about yourself and your behaviors.
Research also suggests that in many families where eating disorders arise, communication can be underestimated or ignored. If you feel like you’re not being heard, make that clear in an assertive but nonjudgmental way. Tell your mom or dad that you need to tell them something important and that you’re worried they won’t hear you. This will draw their attention to your concerns and help them understand where they are coming from.
Plan family meals. Research shows that people who eat at least three meals a week with their family are significantly less likely to have an eating disorder.
Discuss the possibility of undergoing treatment that requires family involvement. The treatment that requires the intervention of the family is an evidence-based model that involves family members in the therapeutic process. Research shows that it is effective in adolescents, perhaps even more so than individualized therapy.