Bulimia is serious disorder that typically only gets worse without treatment. Northbound can help you or your loved one learn to live without using food to manage feelings.

Bulimia is an eating disorder distinguished by cycles of binging and purging. Often, the bulimic individual spends long periods of fasting, followed by a binge/purge interlude wherein he or she (usually she, as more than 90% of bulimics are female) consumes large amounts of food in a short period of time and then attempts to purge herself of the calories. Purging is often accomplished by immediately inducing vomiting, but can also include taking laxatives, stimulants, diuretics, chewing and then spitting out food or excessive exercise.

It is generally assumed that bulimia is caused by a fixation on weight and body shape/size. However, while concerns about one’s weight and a distorted body image are common symptoms of bulimia, experts warn that the focus on weight is only part of the issue for bulimics. In fact, bulimia is often accompanied by anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bulimia is an especially difficult disorder to identify, as bulimics are often secretive about their food and eating habits. What’s more, bulimics tend to be of normal weight (or even slightly overweight), which can allow the disorder to continue for years without detection, thereby seriously endangering the physical and mental health of the sufferer. Substance abuse and mood disorders are common among bulimics; proper treatment requires a facility with a deep understanding of dual diagnoses and behavioral therapy.

Signs and symptoms of bulimia include:

  • An obsession with weight and body shape
  • A distorted and extremely negative view of one’s body shape and size
  • A fixation on tracking calories or calorie consumption
  • A strong fear of gaining weight
  • Periods of binging, wherein the individual eats more than during the binge period than she would for a normal meal—even to the point of pain or discomfort.
  • Purging periods, where the bulimic forces herself to vomit and/or takes diuretics or laxatives and exercises obsessively
  • A strong reluctance to eat in front of others
  • Frequently going to the bathroom while eating, and returning with red eyes (as if from crying) caused by forced vomiting
  • Damage to the teeth, hands or mouth from forcible vomiting
  • Low self-esteem
  • Irregular menstruation in women
  • Depression

The long-term damaged caused by untreated bulimia goes beyond the psychological scarring that occurs. Bulimia causes significant stress on the body and can result in heart problems, serious digestive issues (such as gastroesophageal reflux), dental erosion, trauma to the esophagus and dehydration.

At Northbound, treatment for bulimia begins with a clinical assessment and the development of an individualized treatment plan — which can simultaneously address issues of addiction or alcoholism, and any other co-occurring disorders commonly associated with bulimia (such as anxiety or depression). The heart of Northbound’s treatment philosophy is found in the 12 Steps, which researchers have found to be an effective approach for helping women overcome bulimia. In addition, Northbound makes use of cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been demonstrated to the most effective psychotherapeutic technique in the treatment of bulimia. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the patient learn to challenge the dangerous thought patterns that are characteristic of the disease and develop strategies to help deal with the impulses behind their behaviors.

Northbound’s single-gender CORE program ensures that, during the therapeutic process, clients will be able to confront their disease in a safe and nurturing environment. Though we strive to use prescription medication as sparingly as possible, in some cases, the use of some medications (such as anti-depressants) may be indicated. In such a situation, the use of medication is permitted only under the supervision of a psychiatrist as part of the patient’s integrated treatment plan.

It is troubling to see the long-term harm that bulimia can cause, especially when it is accompanied by addiction or alcoholism. However, with the help of the skilled and experienced staff at Northbound Treatment Services, we can help the victim of bulimia overcome destructive thoughts and tendencies, and get a fresh start towards a new, healthier life.





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