How Does CBT Work for the Treatment of Bulimia?

woman with eating disorder

woman with eating disorderBulimia nervosa is a psychological disorder that affects a person’s eating habits. This condition is characterized by food binging followed shortly by induced vomiting. The cycle is often referred to as “binging and purging.” Binge eating means consuming large quantities of food—larger than what is considered normal—in a short period. Purging means you make yourself vomit either by forcing yourself or taking laxatives or other medicines.

There are various treatment options for bulimia, but The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health has been advocating for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a means to combat the negative thoughts that lead to the destructive habits of people suffering from bulimia and other eating disorders.

Many patients with bulimia undergo treatment with doctors and psychologists as an outpatient. Only those who manifest serious medical conditions are admitted for hospital care. Over the years, CBT has become one of the most sought-after treatment models for bulimia.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is a psychotherapy approach that influences and corrects dysfunctional thought processes. It is one of the procedures that help patients to be more aware of distorted thoughts that are causing them psychological and physical stress.

This treatment model makes use of psychological approaches based on science and clinically proven research. It is said to be one of the best options in treating medical issues associated with various eating disorders. It aims to alter the patient’s perception of body image, food and eating to help them develop healthier habits. The treatment plan for bulimia using CBT can last for a year or longer.

How Does CBT Work?

doctor working at office desk

This therapy begins with an assessment of the patient using diagnostic tests as well as an in-depth interview. During treatment, patients are provided with a customized program and closely monitored for some time.

People who have Bulimia need to understand the relationship between thoughts, actions and emotions.  This is one of the primary goals of CBT. Once they establish and understand the relationships between these, they can start recognizing the negative thoughts and feelings that they have. They will also start reacting appropriately to prevent abnormal eating behaviors.

The first part of the treatment process targets the symptomatic relief for certain medical conditions with a series of behavioral techniques. The next part of the treatment focuses more on educating the patient about the relationship between thoughts, feelings and reactions or their behavior. This part plays an important role in the treatment of bulimia.

As patients start to learn how to recognize and categorize their negative thought processes, they also learn to challenge them. They are then able to replace these thoughts with the right alternatives. People suffering from the disorder are also advised to take a de-stressing strategy or relaxation mode while they are undergoing CBT.

After psychoeducation and self-help therapies, patients may be re-evaluated for further treatment if needed. There are other treatment options for bulimia nervosa, but only interpersonal psychotherapy and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) come as close alternatives to the CBT.