What is Bulimia?

How does bulimia impact your health and well-being? Our LiveWell program successfully treats this eating disorder.

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by consuming large, uncontrollable portions of food – followed by purging. In addition to self-induced vomiting, bulimics may use laxatives, enemas or diuretics.

With this eating disorder, some sufferers also fast or exercise excessively. People with bulimia often feel they have no control over their eating and, although most fall within normal weight range, they often fear gaining weight.

Bulimics are intensely dissatisfied with their body shape and size. They may binge and purge anywhere from several times each week to several times in one day. This is done in secret and is associated with feelings of guilt and shame. Many people with bulimia also suffer from anxiety, depression or substance abuse problems.

Another form of this eating disorder is called exercise bulimia.

Patients with this type of bulimia feel compelled to exercise obsessively in order to burn off calories and fat reserves. Sufferers work out frequently and exceed the level of physical exercise that the body is able to handle.

At HPA/LiveWell, we successfully treat bulimia and other eating disorders.

Our highly experienced staff applies the latest research and techniques to treat this complex condition. We provide an intensive outpatient treatment program – called LiveWell – that enables you to remain in your environment and confront your disease where you live. As a patient, you’ll learn the tools and techniques to manage your condition in your real-life environment.

Here’s why our LiveWell treatment program could be the right fit for you:

  1. Our team is results oriented. Our highly skilled and trained staff members include recognized researchers in the field.
  2. Our LiveWell outpatient program enables you to live at home, stay involved in your work or school, maintain your routine and maintain relationships. We believe treating patients with eating disorders where they live is vital to your success!
  3. Our office has a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Many patients think of this as their “safe place.”

What causes bulimia?

No one knows exactly what causes bulimia – or any eating disorder – but there are many hypotheses. For those of us who treat eating disorders, many believe they are caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors.

  • Biological/psychological factors – According to the latest research, eating disorders do have some genetic roots. Family members may struggle with an eating disorder, an addiction or other psychological disorder such as OCD, and ADHD, anxiety and depression. In fact, many people who suffer from an eating disorder are also diagnosed with another psychological disorder. Personality characteristics also may play a role – people may be at higher risk of developing an eating disorder if they are high achievers, are perfectionists or like to be control.
  • Social factors – Someone suffering from bulimia (and other eating disorders) may compare themselves to other people as a way to assess or bolster their self-worth. We have found that many bulimics say they have been bullied for being overweight (or have been bullied in general). This social factor may spur unhealthy eating disorder behaviors, so they can lose weight or feel like they are in control of their appearance in order to stop the bullying.

Over time, behaviors relating to eating disorders – and in this case bulimia – can develop into a coping skill. Sufferers begin to rely on these unhealthy behaviors to calm themselves or relieve stress.

Our LiveWell intensive outpatient program (IOP) treats bulimia and other eating disorders in a results-oriented outpatient program. Our goal is to help you understand how your eating disorder “works” for you – this is a vital starting point. Then, by working together, we can interrupt unhealthy behaviors and teach new, healthy skills.

There is another important reason why people with anorexia and bulimia must seek treatment from eating disorder programs, such as LiveWell. Occasionally patients who were once anorexic may start to engage in the binge/purge bulimia behavior. This can happen when these people are trying to force themselves out of unhealthy food restrictions. Often, these people fear the calories they have consumed – even if they have eaten a normal amount – and start to purge.

What is bulimia? Here are some signs and symptoms…

Bulimia is characterized by rapidly consuming a higher-than-normal amount of food, followed by a period of purging. Another sign is extreme exercise as a compensatory behavior to avoid weight gain. Other signs and symptoms may include (but are not limited to):

  • Extreme fear of gaining weight
  • High-calorie food binges
  • Preoccupation with weight or body shape
  • Forced purging
  • Use of laxatives, enemas or diuretics in an attempt to control weight
  • Depression or anxiety

If you or someone you know is suffering from bulimia, it’s vital that you seek medical advice immediately, before complications become life-threatening.

In our results-oriented LiveWell program for eating disorders, we use a three-prong approach to treat bulimia.

Based on many years of treatment experience, we know that bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders requires a three-prong approach to effectively treat this life-threatening illness:

  1. Medical
  2. Psychological
  3. Nutritional

It’s important to note that, due to the life-threatening nature of Bulimia Nervosa, each patient (regardless of how severe the symptoms) should be monitored closely by either a primary care physician or a physician specializing in clinical nutrition. These providers will monitor the patient with blood work, bone scans, and EKGs to assess any medical complications.

While the medical complications often get the attention of most clinicians, loved ones, and the patients themselves, yet we know that the psychological aspects of this illness can be most difficult to treat. At HPA/LiveWell, we first help the patient agree to change their eating disorder behaviors. This can be one of the most difficult parts of treatment!

That’s why we use motivational interviewing to help our patients understand why they must make a change. Once they agree to make some changes in their lives, our clinicians can use other forms of therapy to treat our patients. These may include cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. All treatments are geared toward changing our patients’ way of thinking and behavior patterns, so our patients can successfully change their unhealthy eating behaviors.

Finally, another important part of our approach to treating bulimia is involving a dietician who specializes in treating eating disorders. Our dietician works with every patient to develop a customized meal plan. This helps the person feel comfortable with every meal – and with normal intake – so that the person doesn’t need to binge and purge. Without the help and guidance of a dietician, patients can be confused about how to eat in a healthy and appropriate way.

Learn more about our LiveWell intensive outpatient program to treat eating disorders. Call us today to begin your recovery!

If you are asking “what is bulimia,” you (or your loved one) may need help right away. Our results-oriented LiveWell outpatient program enables you to remain in your own home and draw on the support of family and friends. This support is vital to your success!

Our Treatment Programs Get Results

To learn more, call to speak with a Case Manager today. In Albany, NY