Bulimia Treatment

Bulimia Treatment

Three percent of males and females demonstrate bingeing-purging behaviors that require bulimia treatment. Bulimia nervosa behaviors can be present in anyone, of any age. Treatment for bulimia nervosa at The Highlands Treatment Center involves careful evaluation of each client’s medical, psychological, and nutritional issues. Our skilled clinicians collaborate to develop a customized treatment plan that addresses each issue in a progressive, supported, and compassionate manner. The Highlands’ eating disorder experts help clients and their families understand that bulimia nervosa is not only about food, or only about weight. Bingeing and purging are symptoms of very unique and personal issues.

Recognizing the symptoms of bulimia, and why treatment for bulimia nervosa is critical

Bulimia nervosa is a disorder that involves compulsive overeating or bingeing on large amounts of food, and then compensating with purging behaviors. Purging occurs through vomiting, excessive exercise, using diet pills, and other activities that counteract the intake of calories. This is not just dieting. Bingeing-purging cycles can become obsessive for someone with bulimia nervosa, and this makes it impossible to approach food in a normal way. Treatment for bulimia nervosa is aimed at normalizing the relationship with food, but more importantly, understand the underlying causes of the bingeing and purging. Someone with bulimia fears gaining weight and losing control over their bodies. This can cause a host of painful and difficult to manage emotions, including:
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
Without professional bulimia treatment, this cycle is almost impossible to break, and overall mental and physical health is impaired. Bulimia is a potentially life-threatening disorder, which is why early intervention is imperative. Please do not hesitate to contact The Highlands with questions or concerns that you or a loved one may have bulimia. We want to provide the help that is needed to regain physical and emotional health. Some of the most common warning signs of bulimia nervosa:
  • Unrestrained eating, even if pain is experienced
  • Evidence of vomiting after meals
  • Unstable weight (fluctuating 10-20 pounds)
  • Evidence of a hidden food stash, including food wrappers
  • Mood swings
  • Self-criticism and low self-esteem
  • Visits to the bathroom after meals
  • Obsession with food, weight, body size and appearance
  • Unusual laxative use
  • Over use of diuretics and diet pills, including herbal teas and supplements
  • Discoloration of teeth and sore throat (from the stomach acids with frequent vomiting)
  • Chewing and spitting out food
  • Significant increase in amount and frequency of grocery and restaurant bills (binging and compulsive eating)
  • Withdrawing from friends and usual activities
  • Broken blood vessels in the eyes and calluses on knuckles and hands (from self-induced vomiting)
  • Compulsive exercise routines, even when feeling tired or sick

The Highlands Bulimia Treatment Team

Our bulimia treatment team at The Highlands provides each client with a comprehensive approach including medical, therapeutic, and nutritional therapy. In fact, everything thing that we do at The Highlands is based on this philosophy of care. If a client is in our partial hospitalization program (PHP), the frequency and intensity of bulimia treatment is higher. As clients improve and enter our Intensive Outpatient Program, the frequency of individualized and group sessions is reduced slightly to provide more autonomy, but the same high quality treatment remains. Clients are monitored carefully, so that they receive the right level of care at the appropriate time. In each of our programs clients interact with:
  • Primary Therapist
  • Family therapist
  • Adjunct therapists
  • Dietitian
  • Nurse
  • Psychiatrist
Each member of The Highlands Treatment Center team is expert, experienced, and highly trained. We take pride in the level of eating disorder expertise that our clinicians bring to our therapy and nutrition programs. Competency and compassion is exhibited each day in our therapy environment. We are empathic to what our clients and families are going through on their difficult recovery journey, and we are here to be supportive. Prospective clients at The Highlands Treatment Center receive a personal intake evaluation. This evaluation helps us understand each person’s personal eating disorder history, social and home situation, as well as any medical issues currently present. This complimentary intake evaluation will determine if a client is able to begin our partial hospitalization program immediately, or requires more intensive medical care as a hospital inpatient prior to beginning The Highlands PHP, in order to correct severe medical and nutritional problems. More serious later signs of bulimia nervosa include:
  • Electrolyte imbalances that can negatively affect heart function
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of important vitamins and minerals in the body
  • Severe gastrointestinal irregularity and distress
  • Inflammation of the esophagus, which can lead to life-threatening rupture
  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Damage to the lining of the stomach
  • Tooth decay that can lead to other issues
It is absolutely essential that a person begin treatment for bulimia nervosa as soon as possible. Ideally, the family, friends and primary medical provider recognize the warning symptoms, before more serious physical problems appear.

Evidence Based Bulimia Treatment

Bulimia treatment at The Highlands means treatment the entire person, not just the eating behaviors. Our treatment modalities include evidence-based approaches such as Cognitive Behaviors Therapy (CBT), Family Based Therapy (FBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Our therapists also utilize innovation approaches including Attachment and Expressive Therapies, and Internal Family Systems (IFS). Our evidence based treatment has been shown to be consistently effective. Specific therapy modalities are based on the level of care and needs of the individual client, and can include:
  • Individual sessions with the primary therapist or family therapist
  • Weekly session with dietitian
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Specialized sessions for those with co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), self-harm and suicidal issues, and trauma-related symptoms
  • Ongoing monitoring of weight and vital signs
  • Weekly staff-led outings to practice new skills and behaviors
  • Monitored meals and snacks with post-meal processing
  • Individualized meals based on current client needs
  • Family therapy and family week program
  • Coping skills
  • Therapeutic community for extra support
  • Aftercare plan
The frequency and intensity of group and individual sessions depends of the level of care a client is receiving. Treatment for bulimia nervosa at The Highlands is effective because it is so uniquely customized to each client. Our skilled therapists and dietitians utilize multiple interactive therapy approaches that prepare clients with new skills and behaviors. Clients at The Highlands have ample opportunity to practice these new skills before returning home, which supports the long-term recovery process.