The effects of bulimia are less apparent than the effects of anorexia
. A person with bulimia can maintain a normal weight for their height and they may outwardly give the impression of coping well with life’s challenges. They may put off seeking help and support because they are frightened of the reaction they might get if they disclose what they are doing. Shame and the fear of rejection become powerful barriers to change. Being able to come out of isolation may take time.
Recovery can only begin when a person is ready to change. Change can be made easier for a person if those around them inform themselves about bulimia and about how they can offer support and show understanding.
Nowadays there are many self-help programmes available. These can be used on their own or under the guidance of professionals if needed. The Bodywhys booklet “Binge eating – Breaking the Cycle – a self help guide towards recovery” offers information and suggestions for breaking out of compulsive behaviours and taking back control.
A combination of nutritional advice and psychotherapy can provide powerful support to facilitate the changes needed for full recovery.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is known to be effective. This form of therapy helps a person to look at the false beliefs that underlie their sense of self and their behaviour. It encourages the person to evaluate themselves more realistically and to move towards accepting themselves as they are. Individual psychotherapy and group therapy also aim at increasing self esteem by achieving greater self acceptance and developing coping/problem solving skills so that the eating disorder itself is no longer used as a coping tool. Family therapy can help identify and resolve problems within the family that may be contributing to the eating disorder. Anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed to help with the depression that often accompanies bulimia and, in some cases, to help reduce the frequency of bingeing and purging.
Support groups can be very useful in reducing feelings of isolation and in providing encouragement through some of the more difficult parts of recovery.
Most people will experience some periods of relapse and these need to be recognised as part of recovery and not as a failure. Learning to cope with relapse can actually increase the chances of long term recovery.
Further information can be found in the books listed on our Booklist and from other websites for eating disorders and related issues. See our list of Websites or contact the Bodywhys Helpline: lo call 1890 200 444.