Bulimia Nervosa

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Bulimia nervosa is a potentially life-threatening condition defined by a regular pattern of compulsive binge eating followed by some type of unhealthy compensatory action. The purging type of bulimia involves self-induced vomiting after binges, or excessive use of laxatives, enemas and diuretics. The non-purging type of bulimia involves compensating for binge eating using excessive fasting or exercise. There is some overlap between the two types.

Bulimia nervosa affects females more commonly than males with an average age of onset of 19 years. Those with a family history of eating disorders are at greater risk. Other risk factors include higher socioeconomic status, underlying mental illness, and over-achieving personality types. Athletes, dancers, models and those in the spotlight are also at greater risk. Exposure to media and peer pressure appear to contribute to the development of eating disorders.

Signs And Symptoms Related To Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia can be difficult to detect, as many of those with this illness go to extravagant lengths to cover up their behavior. In addition, people with bulimia nervosa are usually at a normal weight or overweight. Symptoms also vary by individual pattern of behavior. A few symptoms of bulimia may include:

  • Distorted, negative body image
  • Excessive preoccupation with weight
  • Not wanting to eat in front of other people
  • Social isolation
  • Consistently going to the bathroom during or right after meals
  • Parotid gland swelling
  • Dental caries and gum disease
  • Knuckle excoriations
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloody vomit, constipation and bloating
  • Infertility

Co-occurring Disorders

Underlying and co-occurring conditions are common in patients with bulimia nervosa, further increasing the risk of serious complications and death from the illness. Some common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Drug and alcohol use disorders
  • Self-harm behaviors
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Phobias
  • Suicidal ideation

Specialized bulimia treatment centers offering bulimia nervosa treatment can usually treat co-occurring conditions simultaneously. While the priority is to medically stabilize patients and treat complications, underlying and co-occurring conditions must be identified and treated for lasting recovery. During bulimia treatment, patients and their families can also gain valuable insights and learn how to mutually support one another.

Bulimia Nervosa Treatment at Sovereign Health

The adolescent Eating Disorder Program at Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego treats girls aged 12 to 17 with bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. We treat co-occurring emotional, behavioral and substance use disorders concurrently. Treatment options for bulimia include inpatient bulimia treatment and outpatient levels of care.

Our Rancho San Diego facility for teen girls with eating disorders is accredited and certified by The Joint Commission. The 14-bed dormitory sleeps two girls per room and is equipped with plenty of age-appropriate indoor and outdoor recreational opportunities. Our developmentally sensitive bulimia treatment program restores positive body image, establishes healthy lifestyle habits, and teaches girls how to maintain physical and mental health. Parents, family and friends can support their loved ones during the treatment process through our family programs. The intensive family weekend program offers educational and therapeutic opportunities and plenty of time to visit.

Our treatment teams include physicians, nurses, therapists, dietitians and other professionals who specialize in treating bulimia in adolescents. Girls are supervised 24/7 in a supportive, therapeutic environment. Psychotherapy is a cornerstone of treatment for bulimia nervosa and we employ individual, group and family approaches. Other modalities include coping skills, stress management, nutrition education, life skills workshops, process groups and relapse prevention. Because bulimia can affect cognition, we also provide cognitive remediation to our patients. Neurofeedback is available as an adjunct therapy.

Laughter is strongly encouraged at Sovereign Health. Fun, relaxation and self-expression truly are important parts of the healing process and are reflected in our experiential therapy programs. Experiential treatments for bulimia nervosa at Sovereign Health include equine therapy, expressive arts and off-site recreational activities.

Our healing community within the eating disorders treatment program encourages girls to develop positive perceptions about their body image and resolve negative thought patterns and behaviors. Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego helps young women with bulimia nervosa and their families achieve and maintain ongoing physical and mental health.

About Sovereign Health

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego realizes that children and teens are not just small adults. We provide developmentally appropriate behavioral health treatment for adolescents with eating disorders, mental disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis. Our specialized professionals work together to meet the goals and needs of our young patients and their families. To learn more about our bulimia rehab centers or any of our specialized services, please call our 24/7 helpline.

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