Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

Are you stuck in a cycle of dieting, bingeing, purging, or exercising and having trouble figuring out how to stop? If you struggle with eating large amounts of food in a short period of time and feel out of control while doing so—the behavior we call “binge eating”—and then engage in behaviors to try to mitigate the effects of eating this way, you might have bulimia nervosa.

Individuals with bulimia nervosa engage in bingeing and then “compensate” with other eating disorder behaviors to offset the perceived damage from binge eating. These compensatory behaviors can include intense exercise, fasting, vomiting, or laxative use. Afterward, the person with bulimia usually resolves to diet or eat healthier, but because our bodies resist attempts at restriction, this inevitably leads to another binge. The cycle repeats.

It can be exhausting. These episodes may cause intense distress and you might feel shame, hopelessness, and the absence of any way out. Counseling for bulimia nervosa can help.

Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia affects people of all genders and can occur in children all the way through adults. The most common age of onset is during teenage years and early adulthood.  Some of the symptoms of bulimia nervosa that you might notice in yourself or a loved one might include:Therapy for Bulimia in Los Angeles, CA [Image description: two adult women sitting in chairs depicting a potential bulimia therapy client in treatment for eating disorders in Los Angeles, California]

  • Restrictive eating (in the type, volume, or frequency) outside of binges
  • Binge eating
  • Purging
  • Laxative use
  • Excessive exercise
  • Fasting
  • Using the bathroom or showering right after meals
  • Preoccupation with one’s shape and weight
  • Guilt and shame about eating
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem

Not all individuals will experience all of these symptoms.

Counseling for Bulimia Nervosa

At Eating Disorder Therapy LA, we offer two primary treatments for bulimia nervosa: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Family-Based Treatment (FBT). We can provide both treatments either in Los Angeles at our offices, or for clients throughout California via telehealth.

Bulimia Treatment in Los Angeles, CA [Image description: purple scrabble tiles spelling "Bulimia Treatment"]

Teen Counseling for Bulimia Nervosa

For teens with bulimia nervosa, we provide family-based treatment, which is the leading evidence-based treatment for teens. Our founder, Dr. Muhlheim, wrote one of the leading books for parents on FBT. In family-based treatment, the therapist works alongside parents to interrupt the behaviors that maintain bulimia.

Parents supervise all meals including snacks and— in the case of bulimia— they must supervise their teens for up to two hours after each meal and snack to ensure that their teen does not purge.

Parents provide meals and snacks of adequate density at regular intervals to ensure that hunger does not drive bingeing between the planned meals and snacks. Because the eating disorder is so strong, teens often find sneaky ways to purge. Parents therefore usually ask the teen to use the restroom before each meal and snack and then set a guideline that the teen cannot use the restroom after the meals for up to two hours. If the teen does need to use the restroom after a meal, a parent usually accompanies them or utilizes other measures to ensure they do not purge. Such measures can include having the teen leave the restroom door cracked open while the parent stands outside facing away; having the teen sing while they use the restroom; or having the teen wait to show the contents of the toilet to the parent before flushing. Some teens purge in showers so parents should monitor shower use too. If teens are attending school, they may need to have monitored bathroom use at school.

Some older teens may benefit from the CBT therapy we provide for adults.

Adult Counseling for Bulimia Nervosa

For adults with bulimia, the leading evidence-based treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), co-created by Dr. Muhlheim’s mentor, Terry Wilson, Ph.D. We provide a modified CBT treatment that is aligned with Health at Every Size®. In this therapy, the focus is on breaking the cycle of dieting, bingeing, and purging. Our therapists help you create a schedule of regular eating and work towards incorporating a broader range of foods. This can be scary, but we support you in making gradual changes. We address factors that get in the way of regular eating. As well, we help you develop other coping skills to replace the self-soothing provided by bingeing and purging. We help you develop body acceptance and learn to trust your body again. It’s also possible that if you are weight suppressed, gaining weight can lead to a reduction in bulimia symptoms.

Begin Counseling for Bulimia in Los Angeles, CA

You do not have to continue to face the cycle of binge eating and purging alone. Counseling can help you break the cycle and reestablish a healthy relationship with food and body. Our Los Angeles, California practice has caring therapists who specialize in the treatment of bulimia in teens and adults. To start your counseling journey, follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact Eating Disorder Therapy LA
  2. Speak to our practice manager who will either match you to a therapist or provide referrals
  3. Start recovering from bulimia and rebuilding your (or your loved one’s) life.

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Other Counseling Services at Eating Disorder Therapy LA

At Eating Disorder Therapy LA, we specialize in evidence-based treatments for all eating disorders and related issues. We provide therapy for Anorexia Nervosa, Atypical Anorexia, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and Body Image.

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