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Breaking Down What to Expect at a Bulimia Nervosa Treatment Center

Bulimia nervosa is a complex disorder and its treatment is no less so. This can make the idea of entering a residential or outpatient treatment center intimidating for the individual going into treatment. For that reason, it’s important to be informed about what kinds of treatment to expect – more pore a potential client knows, the better they can prepare to get started on recovery.

A comprehensive bulimia nervosa treatment plan will incorporate three core types of treatment: medical, nutritional, and psychological.

Medical Treatments for Bulimia Nervosa

If an incoming client is displaying signs of malnutrition or other physical symptoms of bulimia nervosa such as bleeding in the throat, anemia, or gastrointestinal issues, the treatment center’s first priority is to medically stabilize the client.

Many individuals diagnosed with bulimia nervosa never require hospitalization. However, for those cases where it’s needed, the treatment facility normally provides 24/7 medical support including medical doctors, trained nurses, and psychiatric professionals. Before the other kinds of treatment can begin, medical stability is essential.

In outpatient programs, the treatment center normally arranges for medical treatment at a local hospital or clinic. Normally, the medical professionals will have experience with the unique needs of eating disorder patients.

Nutritional Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

A common result of long-term eating disorders, including bulimia nervosa, is nutritional imbalance and malnutrition. This requires specialized nutritional plans and education to correct. Some of the nutritional treatment available at bulimia nervosa treatment centers include:

  • Education concerning how nutrition impacts one’s body and how a lack of proper nutrition is linked to physical and mental function
  • Identifying how bulimia nervosa and its associated disordered behaviorsdisrupt balanced nutrition
  • Teaching how to design a balanced meal plan in a sustainable fashion
  • Seeking to incorporate a regular pattern of eating and how to avoid urges to purge afterward
  • Providing anti-diet education, outlining clearly how diet culture interferes with a healthy relationship with food and eating, eventually leading to disordered behaviors
  • Finding pathways to correct health concerns that result from malnutrition and other risks associated with bulimia nervosa

Psychological Treatments for Bulimia Nervosa

Therapy involves seeing a psychologist, therapist, or other mental health professionals. During residential treatment, this is performed daily over the course of at least 30 days, although sometimes longer. Outpatient therapy can continue following residential’s ending, sometimes for years, but it can also be the primary option. Some of the goals and techniques of psychological treatment include:

  • Developing coping skills and mindfulness techniques to counter urges to engage in disordered eating
  • Identifying self-destructive feelings and ideas and adopting new habits that better serve to help the individual live a full, happy life
  • Developing relationship management skills, including family therapy sessions that provide a basis for support following return to daily life
  • Encouraging group meals, communal shopping and cooking, and other food-related activities with the client’s peers in treatment
  • Skills building for maintaining an awareness of one’s relationship with food and one’s emotional condition on a day-to-day basis
  • Stress tolerance training to help the client process and defuse stressful situations without resorting to disordered eating behaviors

Therapy has moved beyond the stereotype of a psychoanalyst talking to a client laying on the couch, moving to more evidence-based clinical techniques honed over decades.Some of the most common types of therapy are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most popular forms of evidence-based therapy used today. A major focus of CBT is on the thoughts and feelings one has and the way those thoughts and feelings can lead to unwanted or undesirable behaviors. When treating bulimia nervosa symptoms, CBT can help individuals recognize and alter disorder or negative emotions or actions associated with the eating disorder.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): A form of CBT originally designed for suicidal people and those with borderline personality disorder, DBT focuses on two central parts of behavioral therapy: acceptance and change. The client learns to accept their disordered behaviors objectively, and then accept that they need to change those behaviors. DBT can be effective in both individual and group therapy settings.
  • Family-Based Therapy: The family of the individual diagnosed with an eating disorder can play a helpful role in recovery in a variety of ways. However, it can be difficult for family members to know what to do and what not to do without a little guidance. Family-based therapy provides a foundation for family members to learn how to support the individual diagnosed with an eating disorder, including helping them restore desirable eating patterns.