Treatment takes time but you can recover from bulimia.
Your treatment plan is individual to you. It should include other support you might need, for example, for depression or anxiety.
Treatment for adults
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps you manage problems by thinking in a more balanced way. It can help you identify unhelpful patterns of behaviour.
Your therapist will find out how you think and feel about your weight and body shape. They will also try to understand what led you to think and feel this way. They will help you to adopt regular eating habits and show you how to stick to them.
They will show you ways to manage difficult feelings and situations. This will reduce your risk of a relapse after your therapy ends.
They will also help you develop a relapse-prevention plan for when therapy ends.
Treatment for children and young people
You and your family will talk to a therapist. You will explore how bulimia has affected you and how your family can support you to get better.
You may also be offered CBT-E. This is a specific form of CBT for people with eating disorders.
Looking after yourself
It's important to look after your health while recovering from bulimia.
If you are vomiting regularly, the acid in your vomit can damage your teeth over time.
To reduce the damage, you should:
- avoid brushing your teeth immediately after vomiting so you do not wear away the enamel
- rinse your mouth with a non-acidic mouthwash
- make sure you see your dentist regularly
- do not drink or eat acidic foods such as fruit juice during a binge and after purging
- do not smoke
Vomiting can also lead to a risk of dehydration. To avoid this, make sure you drink plenty of fluids to replace what you have vomited.
Treatment for bulimia can include an antidepressant, such as fluoxetine (Prozac).
Antidepressants can work with therapy or self-help treatment to help you manage other conditions such as:
Antidepressants are very rarely prescribed for children or young people under 18.
Find out more about antidepressants
Where treatment will happen
Most people with bulimia will be able to stay at home during treatment. You will usually have appointments at your clinic and then be able to go home.
You may be admitted to hospital if you have serious health complications.
- being very underweight
- problems with your heart
- being very ill and your life is at risk
- being under 18 and your doctors believing you do not have enough support at home
- doctors being concerned that you might harm yourself or are at risk of suicide
Your doctors will keep a very careful eye on your weight and health in hospital. They will help you to reach a healthy weight over time. When you are in hospital you can start or continue any therapy you are having.
When they are happy with your weight and your physical and mental health, you should be able to return home.
Visit bodywhys.ie for information and support about bulimia
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE