If you are living with an eating disorder like bulimia nervosa, it can feel crippling. Leave the turmoil behind and free yourself with treatment at Eating Disorder Solutions in Dallas, TX.
Eating Disorder Solutions is the best choice for bulimia treatment because we offer comprehensive treatment plans that include highly effective residential and intensive outpatient programs geared toward meeting the needs of our clients no matter where they are in their journey to physical and mental wellness.
Unlike other facilities with a standardized treatment model, our process creates individualized bulimia treatment strategies that address the unique physical challenges and emotional concerns that every client has. We understand that eating disorders are complex and deeply rooted in underlying mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. By addressing the root of the issue, the individual will have a better chance of recovery. We use client-centered treatment modalities to forge strong relationships, creating an atmosphere of trust and openness.
What Is Bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa, or bulimia, is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and then compensating for the binge in some way, such as purging through the act of vomiting, excessive use of laxatives, diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. Binge eating involves consuming a large amount of food in a short period of time, while the compensation for the binge often involves self-induced vomiting or purging. Some individuals with bulimia use laxatives or diuretics to compensate for bingeing, while others excessively exercise or fast to restrict their calorie intake.
Since purging or burning all of the calories consumed is impossible, many individuals with bulimia end up gaining weight compared to what’s normal for their age and height based on health care standards. However, some individuals maintain their weight, while others become underweight.
Regardless of weight, it’s very unhealthy for individuals to continue this behavior. When the first bulimia symptoms develop, they require effective treatment from a team of specialists. Bulimia is extremely unhealthy and can lead to devastating consequences if left untreated. It is more than a physical condition. It’s also a mental health disorder, so treatment revolves around addressing the distorted emotions and thoughts that individuals develop about their own bodies. Most of the time, they have a poor self-image and negative relationship with food.
Co-Occurring Disorders & Bulimia
In many instances, those who suffer from bulimia also suffer from a co-occurring disorder or addiction. From comorbid mood disorders to drug addictions, the types of co-occurring disorders vary. These co-occurring disorders can make bulimia harder to monitor and control, increasing the severity and worsening the symptoms of the disorder.
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To better understand the dangers of this disorder, we’ve included a few bulimia statistics below.
- Bulimia disproportionately affects more women than men, partially due to societal stereotypes and expectations.
- Although women have a higher risk of developing bulimia, men can still get it. Among men, those who are gay or bisexual are at a greater risk of developing bulimia than those who are heterosexual.
- Bulimia is very prevalent in those who are younger. The onset of this disorder is usually in the teens.
- A lot of people who have bulimia have a co-occurring disorder. In fact, almost half of all individuals with bulimia have a comorbid mood disorder.
- Bulimia can be harder to recognize in others than you think. It can affect people of all different sizes, shapes, ages, genders, and backgrounds.
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies are more common in those affected by bulimia. Tragically, suicide is one of the more common causes of death for this disorder.
- In addition to having fairly high rates of relapse, it’s reported that only 1/10 of those with bulimia seek treatment.
What Causes Bulimia?
What exactly causes bulimia? Well, unlike many other physical conditions that can be traced to unhealthy lifestyle habits or even to specific genes, the exact cause of bulimia is difficult to pinpoint. Despite research into this disorder, the cause of bulimia remains unknown to this day, but scientists, physicians and psychiatrists believe that certain risk factors are at the heart of the disorder. In particular, they point to the following as possible root causes in most cases.
- Gender, affecting women more often than men
- Mental and emotional disorders
- Continual dieting
- Personality traits such as high rigidity and perfectionist
- Trying to live up to societal norms
Many times, bulimia follows genetic patterns, showing up frequently in one family, but not at all in a different family. For example, those whose parents or siblings have been diagnosed with this eating disorder have a heightened risk of requiring bulimia treatment in the future as well. Some statistics suggest that those who have parents with bulimia are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the same disorder as compared to the general population. In fact, genetics may be the cause of bulimia in up to 50% of cases.
Modern culture and messages found on social media and in advertising frequently solidify negative ideas. The need to have just the right body shape is a major message found online, in movies, at school, at work, and many other places. These thoughts can be further solidified by personal trainers, athletic coaches, parents, and friends, intentionally or not.
Those with certain personality traits are also at a heightened risk of developing bulimia. This includes those who frequently display the following characteristics:
- High rigidity
- Judgmental attitudes
- Preoccupation with little details
- High impulsivity
Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia
Bingeing and purging can take a toll on individuals who develop bulimia, especially since most individuals with bulimia will binge and purge several times a week or, in serious cases, several times a day. However, it’s not always easy to identify bulimia symptoms in the early stages of the eating disorder. In particular, the physical signs of bulimia can take some time to develop.
The side effects of bulimia nervosa are not only physical, but mental and emotional, too. Below are the most common side effects of bulimia on the body:
- Wildly fluctuating weight
- Dental problems and eroding teeth from purging
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Abnormal bowel function
- Electrolyte imbalance, which can cause cardiac arrest
- Constipation, acid reflux or other stomach issues
- Inconsistent or loss of menstrual periods
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle cramps and weakness
- Thinning hair
- Tingling hands or feet
Because many individuals with bulimia use vomiting to purge after eating, they may also show signs of regularly induced vomiting, including the following:
- Scars on the knuckles
- Swollen cheeks
- Discolored teeth
- Tooth decay
- Scrapes and cuts in the mouth or throat
- Gastric reflux
Mental and emotional signs are often the first clues family members and friends notice in a loved one experiencing bulimia nervosa. The most common mental signs and symptoms of this disorder include the following:
- Frequent complaints about being fat
- Poor body image and constant nit-picking about supposed body flaws
- Mood swings
- Interpersonal problems
Warning Signs of Bulimia
Although it takes time for some bulimia nervosa symptoms to develop, it’s also difficult to identify the eating disorder because individuals hide the symptoms. Despite that, family members and friends can keep an eye out for this secretive behavior. For instance, individuals who are hiding symptoms may become socially isolated, anxious or depressed.
Also, family and friends might notice that their loved ones are more preoccupied with their weight and body shape than they used to be. Maybe they’ve developed a distorted or negative body image. These warning signs are most noticeable in conversation. For example, individuals with bulimia may often complain about how their bodies look.
Other signs to look for include:
- Wildly fluctuating weight
- Eating past the point of discomfort
- Eating huge meals
- Keeping hidden stashes of junk food
- Secretive meal eating or snacking
- Disappearing to the bathroom after eating
- Regularly fasting or dieting
- Exercising excessively
- Making excuses for long absences from social gatherings, school or work
- Making excuses for missing money or food
During a binge, individuals eat too much food, usually in private. They might invade the pantry when they get home. Others might visit numerous fast-food restaurants in a row and secretly eat between each stop. The bottom line is that they feel compelled to eat more than they should.
Because of their behavior during binge episodes, individuals feel ashamed and disgusted with themselves afterward. These feelings are accompanied with the need to purge the extra calories. In order to achieve that, they may force themselves to vomit or abuse diuretics or laxatives. As the eating disorder and bulimia symptoms worsen, they could develop a compulsion to purge after having a normal meal or small snack.
However, not all individuals with bulimia purge or use diuretics or laxatives to eliminate consumed calories. Some of them exercise for hours on end to burn off the extra calories. Others go on crash diets or starve themselves to counteract the high-calorie intake. Before beginning treatment, healthcare professionals must distinguish between two types of bulimia nervosa: purging and nonpurging.
Types of Bulimia
While bulimia is characterized by excessive eating and by a fixation on weight gain and body image, the way individuals deal with the excess calories can vary. Bulimia is divided into two major types: purging and nonpurging.
The purging type of bulimia is by far the most common variant affecting teenagers and adults, and it is what most people think of when they hear the term bulimia. As previously discussed, the binging cycle is followed by the need to purge the calories immediately from the body.
Instead of vomiting, individuals will try to manage body weight by having long periods of unhealthy fasting following each binge cycle or exercising vigorously for long periods of time.
Unfortunately, bulimia relapse is fairly common. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t rebound back and recover – you can. For most, the biggest challenge is not being able to identify bulimia relapse triggers early on or as they happen, preventing them from seeking the necessary immediate help and treatment.
If you begin to notice any of the following, you should seek professional help as soon as possible.
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness
- Returning obsessive thoughts, either about weight or food
- Re-engaging, or the thought of re-engaging, in past eating behaviors, including purging
- Restored sense of guilt of eating or increased dissatisfaction with current body image
Seeking Bulimia Treatment in Dallas, TX
The best time to seek treatment for bulimia nervosa either for yourself or for a loved one struggling with this disorder is today. A complete bulimia treatment plan at Eating Disorder Solutions will focus on three main goals, which include the following:
- Stopping the cycle of binging on food followed by purging
- Improving thoughts about weight, body shape, body size and dieting techniques
- Finding help for emotional battles that are often at the root of bulimia nervosa
When most of our clients initially come to one of our treatment centers located in Dallas, Texas, they are living with many physical symptoms brought on by their binging and purging cycles. Therefore, we must first address physical symptoms to stabilize the client’s medical status. This may include consistent medical monitoring by our qualified medical staff for the first several days, and specialized nutritional support to help with the early discomfort of renourishment. Once the client’s medical status has stabilized, we will focus more of our attention on psychiatric care as part of bulimia treatment. Through group and individualized counseling as well as with the support of our registered dietitians, we can help our clients gain acceptance for their current body shape and size and improve on their relationship with food.
While the residential portion of bulimia treatment is vital for physical health and a rebalancing of both emotions and mindset, we know that treatment must be long-term for clients to achieve lasting success with their recovery. We achieve this through our partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, which provides support through our professional physicians, dietitians, and counselors, as well as the emotional support from others going through the same treatment. Our goal is to heal the relationship to food through proper education, structured meals, and healthy responses to negative emotions.
Bulimia Diagnosis at Eating Disorder Solutions
Once a client seeks bulimia nervosa treatment at Eating Disorder Solutions, they will undergo a full confidential evaluation by one of our leading doctors. Proper diagnosis is vital for getting the right bulimia treatment plan in place.
A bulimia diagnosis requires four specific findings:
- Regular episodes of binge eating, which is defined as eating far more at one time than the average person would. A loss of control over eating is also a significant part of this category.
- Using one or more means to limit weight gain, such as vomiting, using laxatives, fasting or exercising.
- An individual binge eats and uses one of the above compensatory behaviors at least one time per week, and this behavior has lasted three months at minimum.
- An individual has a negative thought pattern about his or her weight, body shape and size or general self-image.
The diagnosing physician or psychiatrist will use a tool called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly called the DSM-5. This tool includes the above criteria and will also help the physician determine the extent of the bulimia, which can be rated from mild to extreme based on the number of binging episodes that occur each week.
During the evaluation process, a physician will perform other health tests including an EKG, blood tests, and more. A psychiatrist will provide a complete psychological evaluation as well to rule out any concurrent physical or mental diagnoses that could affect the course of the treatment.
Our Bulimia Treatment Programs
To address the signs and symptoms of bulimia, we offer a wide range of bulimia treatment programs including the following:
Our residential program is the highest level of care that we offer, and our facility is one of very few that provide this level of treatment. It’s a structured live-in program in our home environment with 24-hour access to doctors, nurses, and therapists.
During the program, individuals with bulimia symptoms participate in 8 to 10 hours of therapy each day. Our therapists use a range of counseling techniques in individual, group, and family sessions based on each client’s needs. The program also includes nutrition education and meal support with our registered dietitians.
The amount of time that individuals spend in this program depends on how severe their situations are and how quickly they heal. Because of that, some clients only spend a few weeks in residential treatment, but others need a few months.
Following our residential program, individuals can step down to our partial hospitalization program. It allows them to return to living at home while still getting guidance as they adjust to living outside of our facility. They visit our treatment center five or six days a week for about five hours of therapy each day to hinder the recurrence of bulimia symptoms. Like our residential program, they participate in individual, group, and family counseling and receive structured meals and nutrition support.
Taking another step down, our intensive outpatient program gives individuals more freedom. It allows them to apply everything that they’ve learned to real-life situations in order to prevent bulimia symptoms. To ensure long-term success even after a client leaves our facility, we continue to provide support along the way so that they don’t become overwhelmed and revert to old habits. They’ll visit our facility three days a week for about three hours of counseling each day.
In addition to our comprehensive bulimia nervosa treatment programs and continuum of care, Eating Disorder Solutions has designed therapies that address the whole person — from mind and body to soul. Our wide-range of therapy programs include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We teach individuals how to transform negative thoughts into positive ones
- Family therapy: We help family members understand the nuances and tendencies of the eating disorder and provide tools to help their loved one
- Psychological counseling: Our team of specialists uncovers the roots of your disorder, such as emotional trauma or mental illness
- Group therapy: Set in a caring environment, individuals are able to explore their own emotions and feelings with the support of others going through the same journey.
- Co-occurring disorder treatment: Those with simultaneous mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder will receive treatment based on their needs.
The Impact of Bulimia if Left Untreated
If left untreated, bulimia can lead to a life full of health complications. The impact of bulimia is detrimental to the body’s growth and well-being. Not only are there short-term consequences, but there are many long-term effects as well. Long-term bulimia side effects include electrolyte imbalance and problems with regular organ functions. Vomiting leads to major losses of electrolytes, and after repeated occurrences, this can affect heart growth and function. In addition, the lack of necessary nutrients can bring organ failure, particularly the heart and kidneys, which can result in death.
Other long-term effects of bulimia include long-lasting dental problems. Over time, the stomach acid from vomiting can eat away at your teeth, deteriorating them exponentially. Additionally, this stomach acid can also cause damage to your esophagus. Bulimia can even affect your menstrual cycle and increase your chances of infertility. More seriously, bulimia can cause calcium deficiencies increasing your risk of developing osteopenia or osteoporosis later in life. Both of which are not usually reversible.
Although the challenges of overcoming bulimia and bulimia complications may seem daunting, this disorder is beatable. At Eating Disorder Solutions, we understand how hard it is to live with bulimia and how devastating the long-term effects of bulimia can be. However, with proper treatment and the right support, you can overcome bulimia and take your life back.
Get Help with Bulimia Today
You can overcome bulimia nervosa and we can help. We will help you stop the cycle of binging and purging, transform negative thoughts about weight, body shape, and size, and provide coping skills for emotional battles. Seeking treatment for bulimia nervosa takes a lot of courage, and at Eating Disorder Solutions, we understand this can be a scary step to take. Which is why we are here to help every step along the way, from initial diagnosis and insurance coverage to treatment planning and intake. Get all your questions answered about the road to recovery with our intake and admissions guide.
Our integrated treatments will help you develop a better relationship with food while strengthening and caring for your body. Contact us today to get started on the road to recovery.