Bulimia Nervosa in Adolescents - A Look at Treatment Methods

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Helping Adolescents Faced with Bulimia Nervosa

When it comes to bulimia nervosa in adolescents, there are many options and methods that may help treat the eating disorder.

Individual therapy, family therapy, working with a physician, nutritionist, or psychiatrist, and prescription medication are all methods of treatment that are commonly used. These methods may be used singly or in conjunction with each other depending upon the severity of the eating disorder in each patient.

Individual Therapy

In psychotherapy, or individual therapy, the treatment is targeted towards discovering and healing the root cause that relates to stress and anxiety. Physical changes that develop with the onset of puberty can cause undue stress and anxiety in adolescents. Peer pressure and the social demands that come with adolescence often need to be addressed. The adolescent stage also goes hand in hand with the stress of maneuvering through the mine fields of growing up and becoming responsible for actions and attitudes taken. Without proper role models or environments that encourage development whilst providing safety nets, adolescents often flounder and lose self confidence.

Individual therapy may address underlying personal issues like self-esteem, confidence and guilt that may be associated with food or body image.

Treatment may involve exploring and trying to resolve anxieties relating to these issues while at the same time encouraging the adolescent to eat sensibly and maintain a healthy weight.

The eating disorder sufferer may be encouraged to start a food diary, start a new hobby, or get involved in a new project.

Family Therapy

Without realizing it, the family may have been a factor in the development of an adolescent’s illness. Family therapy is a way in which the family can assist in resolving any issues that may have contributed to the disorder. A therapist can target where the family can improve communication problems, and work on the avoidance of conflict issues. Family dynamics can be molded and encouraged to provide a more supportive environment for the adolescent.

If the family shows dysfunctional patterns, the therapist will allow these issues to be addressed in a non combative way. Bringing these patterns to light will enable the adolescent to feel less stress, less anxiety, and less pressure. Bulimia nervosa in adolescents is all about the stress and pressure of outside influences.

Family therapy will usually help the entire family deal with conflicts and help to provide them and the adolescent with coping techniques.

Professional Help

Professional assistance may be needed in the forms of physicians, nutritionists, psychiatrists, and other care professionals. Depending upon the circumstance and situation of each bulimia sufferer, conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse may also need to be addressed. Bulimia nervosa in adolescents may develop different issues, each of which may entail the assistance of specific professionals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a common therapy in the treatment of eating disorders, helps the individual address the negative ideas surrounding food, body-image and self-esteem. This therapy provides constructive ways of implementing new food habits and positive life changes to ensure a healthier lifestyle.

Prescription Medication

Prescription medication may be prescribed to those bulimic patients who need assistance in helping to improve related symptoms like depression, anxiety and stress, or obsessive behavior. Commonly prescribed drugs for bulimia sufferers may include antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, and even an antipsychotic drug named Lithium.

While these pharmaceuticals are commonly prescribed to assist in the treatment of depression and anxiety, they are not considered long term treatments due to dependence issues.


Teens Health - Eating Disorders: https://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/problems/eat_disorder.html

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry - Teenagers with Eating Disorders: https://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Teenagers+with+Eating+Disorders&section=Facts+for+Families