Bulimia Nervosa Treatment

Schedule a Consult
Bulimia Nervosa Treatment at Kahm Center; IOP program individual counseling for bulimia treatment

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder affecting 288,000 or about 1% of the 28.8 million Americans. Bulimia can impact a person’s daily life and even prevent people from normal functioning. This eating disorder also has the potential to negatively impact physical health to the point where hospitalization is needed. People who struggle with bulimia nervosa may feel intense shame around the disorder that prevents them from seeking support.

Treating bulimia is essential for those struggling to regain control over their lives. Eating disorders can be especially damaging when left untreated. Discussing treatment options with a medical or eating disorder specialist is imperative. The Kahm Center for Eating Disorders provides outpatient eating disorder treatment in Burlington, Vermont, for those struggling with bulimia.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extremely harmful eating behaviors. It's usually characterized by episodes of binging or eating large amounts of food and purging or getting rid of the food. People suffering from this condition typically consume large quantities of food within a short period, and they feel as if they're out of control. They're then overwhelmed with guilt and shame, resulting in purging or getting rid of the food.

Causes of Bulimia Nervosa

Environmental, genetic, and social factors can cause bulimia. There's no apparent connection between this condition and genetics, but women suffering from hyperandrogenism and polycystic ovary syndrome show irregular appetite, resulting in bulimia.

The obsession with low weight and the desire to meet the social construct of a thin body has also contributed to bulimia nervosa. It also resulted in compulsive habits of purging habits and extreme workouts to achieve "the ideal image" portrayed by the media.

Snowdrop flowers

Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

There are several signs of bulimia nervosa. These signs cut across the emotional, behavioral, and physical aspects.

Emotional and Behavioral Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

  • The obsession with body weight loss and maintaining a particular body shape. You will usually find these people checking themselves out in the mirror, trying to pick out flaws in their appearance.
  • The disappearance of large food amounts within short periods. You will usually notice empty wrappers and containers, proving that there has been a large amount of food consumption.
  • Evidence related to purging, such as frequent trips to the bathroom after eating, accompanied by signs of vomiting. The presence of diuretics and laxative wrapper packages is another indicator that your friend or relative suffers from bulimia nervosa
  • Appearing as if you're uncomfortable with your body image
  • Obsession with particular foods or food groups
  • Poor eating habits
  • Fear of eating with others or in public
  • The obsession with dietary practices like vegetarianism, no sugar, or no carb diets.
  • Excessive and irritable mood swings
  • Wearing baggy clothes to hide your body
  • Adopting excessive, rigid exercise even after fatigue, illness, or during extreme weather conditions
  • Avoiding friends and regular activities
  • Changing your lifestyle schedule or rituals to create time for binge-purge sessions

Physical Signs of Bulimia Nervosa

You may notice the following physical signs of bulimia symptoms:

  • Noticeable fluctuation in body weight
  • Poor concentration
  • Complaints of non-specific stomach complaints such as acid reflux and constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep problems
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Dry skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold, mottled hands and swelling of the feet
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Poor wound healing
  • Bulimia hands, or also known as Russell's Sign
  • Enlarged salivary glands: "bulimia cheeks"

Another concerning physical symptom of Bulimia Nervosa is hair loss. To understand this better, visit our page on "Does Bulimia Cause Hair Loss" to learn more about the connection and its implications.

Overview of the city of Burlington Vermont during the fall

Diagnostic Criteria for Bulimia

The diagnostic criteria used for bulimia is known as DSM-5. One of the crucial elements of this diagnostic criteria is understanding how an individual feels. A healthcare professional will also conduct a physical examination and may recommend blood tests to rule out problems related to the misuse of laxatives and induced vomiting.

Other aspects that the healthcare professional will look out for are as follows:

  • Recurring episodes of binge eating are characterized by eating larger amounts of food than most people would eat during similar periods and a lack of control over these habits.
  • Recurring behavior to avoid weight gain, such as misuse of laxatives, self-induced vomiting, fasting, and excessive exercise.
  • Occurrence of the behavior at least once every about three months.
  • Constant self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body weight and shape.
  • Lack of disturbances during episodes of anorexia nervosa, a similar eating disorder characterized by being underweight.

Types of Bulimia

Purging Type

which involves forcing yourself to vomit and/or using diuretics, laxatives, or other medications to purge.

Non-Purging Type

Non-purging bulimia involves excessive exercising or fasting after an episode of binge eating.

Health Risks Associated with Bulimia

People suffering from bulimia nervosa may affect their digestive system and cause chemical imbalances. These imbalances may affect the heart and major organs.

Health risks from bulimia can be fatal, considering that the body is resilient and can cope with eating-disordered behaviors. Laboratory test results may also appear perfect even when someone is at risk of death. Electrolyte imbalance also puts an individual suffering from recurrent episodes of bulimia at risk of death since it can cause cardiac arrest without warning.

Additional health risks associated with Bulimia can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Ulcers and pancreatitis
  • Inflammation or rupture of the esophageal due to excessive vomiting
  • Tooth decay or staining that's caused by frequent self-induced vomiting or stomach acids. This is usually referred to as bulimia teeth.
  • Risks associated with diabulimia, such as peripheral neuropathy or organ damage

While understanding the risks of Bulimia is essential, it's equally crucial to recognize its similarities and differences with other eating disorders. To dive deeper into the comparison between Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder, visit our page on "Bulimia & Binge Eating Disorder: How Are They Similar?".

Treatment for Bulimia

Your healthcare professional can adopt a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP), depending on the extent of the condition. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy can be utilized as a part of the PHP and IOP programs at the Kahm Center.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) for Bulimia

This method changes the ingrained purging or compensatory behavior. Changing these behaviors is hard, hence the need for a partial hospitalization program (PHP) for close monitoring. At this point, healthcare professionals focus on psychiatric, physical, and medical stabilization.

PHP is not the same as inpatient treatment. Participants in PHP treatment spend most of their time in a therapeutic setting. However, participants are not required to live on-site and typically engage in treatment 5 days a week. This level of care is ideal for people who need close supervision but do not require a hospital stay.

Bulimia Nervosa Treatment at Kahm Center; IOP program individual counseling for bulimia treatment

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for Bulimia Treatment

The intensive outpatient program (IOP) is designed to help people who are struggling with bulimia balance treatment and their lives in the outside world. This level of care requires less of a time commitment than PHP. Participants can live in their own homes or in a supportive living home.

They receive the support and therapeutic expertise of their treatment team while they can also tend to their outside responsibilities. IOP can be especially effective in treating bulimia for people with a less severe case or who have successfully completed previous treatment.

An IOP involves several treatments, such as:

  • Individual counseling
  • Family support and education
  • Working with a dietitian

Outpatient Bulimia Treatment in Burlington, Vermont

Bulimia nervosa should not be taken lightly. People who struggle with this eating disorder may experience adverse mental and physical health consequences. They may face heart problems, dehydration, ulcers, social issues, and more. It is important to seek help for bulimia to achieve a happier and healthier lifestyle.

If you or your loved one is struggling with bulimia, there's no better place for your treatment in Burlington, Vermont, than the Kahm Center for Eating Disorders. We use metabolic testing and body composition analysis as part of our bulimia treatment, along with traditional methods like meal plans, therapy, and meeting with dietitians.

Clinically Reviewed By

nick kahm reviewer

Nick Kahm, PhD


Nick Kahm, a former philosophy faculty member at St. Michael's College in Colchester, VT, transitioned from academia to running the Kahm Clinic with his mother. He started the clinic to train dietitians in using Metabolic Testing and Body Composition Analysis for helping people with eating disorders. Now, he is enthusiastic about expanding eating disorder treatment through the Kahm Center for Eating Disorders in Vermont.

Looking for treatment?

We're Here to Help!
Call for Assessment