Bulimia Treatment in New Jersey

Bulimia nervosa, commonly referred to as bulimia, is an eating disorder in which a person has an abnormal perception of their body image, constantly craves food and binges, then purges to get rid of the excess calories in an unhealthy way.

Bulimia is a treatable mental illness that requires the help of trained medical professionals to recover. It can lead to rare but potentially dangerous complications that can be life-threatening. If you or someone you love is bulimic, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.

RWJBarnabas Health offers stigma-free treatment to those suffering from the effects of bulimia by using a multidisciplinary approach to address the biological, psychiatric, psychological and social issues related to bulimia. Our nationally recognized Eating Disorders Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Somerset has been a pioneer, leading the research and treatment of eating disorders. It is one of only two programs in New Jersey with a dedicated inpatient unit.

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What Is Bulimia?

There is a commonly held misconception that eating disorders such as bulimia are a lifestyle choice. In fact, bulimia is a serious illness that is has to do with modifying one’s eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Preoccupation with food, body weight and shape may also signal an eating disorder.

Bulimia is a condition where people have frequent and recurring episodes of eating large amounts of food – or binge eating – and feeling a lack of control over their behavior. People with bulimia typically follow their binge eating with purging, which can include one or more of the following behaviors to compensate for overeating:

  • Forced vomiting
  • Fasting
  • Excessive use of laxatives
  • excessive exercise

Causes of Bulimia

The exact cause of bulimia is unknown. Many factors can play a role in the development of an eating disorder, including genetics, biology, emotional health, societal expectations and other issues. People with bulimia may be in any body size and they share an excessive preoccupation with thoughts of food, weight or shape that negatively affects and impacts their self-worth.

Symptoms of Bulimia

Individuals with bulimia experience a loss of control over what or how much they are eating, binge eating very large amounts of food rapidly. People with bulimia may be secretive about their behavior as it is associated with feelings of shame or embarrassment. Some signs and symptoms to look for include:

  • Evidence of binge eating or self-induced vomiting
  • Eating food in large bites very quickly
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Sores and calluses on the back of hand or knuckles (from inducing vomiting)
  • Abuse of laxatives, diet pills, diuretics or medicines to induce vomiting
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals
  • Strict dieting or fasting following binge eating

Bulimia may cause serious and even life-threatening complications including:

  • Negative self-esteem and problems with relationships and social functioning
  • Dehydration, which can lead to major medical problems, such as kidney failure
  • Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat or heart failure
  • Severe tooth decay and gum disease
  • Absent or irregular periods in females
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety, depression, personality disorders or bipolar disorder
  • Misuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Self-injury, suicidal thoughts or suicide

Bulimia Diagnosis

Although there are no specific tests to diagnose bulimia, a comprehensive evaluation, including medical history, physical exam, various diagnostic tests, and a mental health assessment can help pinpoint a diagnosis.

Health care providers will explore a diagnosis of bulimia from many angles including:

  • Dietary history
  • Exercise history
  • Psychological history
  • Body image
  • Binge eating and purging frequency and elimination habits (use of diet pills, laxatives and supplements)
  • Family history of eating disorders
  • Medication history

In addition, certain medical conditions may be possible signs of bulimia. Health care providers may look for:

  • Chronic sore throat
  • Swelling of salivary glands in the cheeks
  • Dental decay due to erosion of tooth enamel by stomach acid
  • Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Recurrent unexplained diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting from dehydration due to excessive purging

Early diagnosis is important to achieve the best recovery outcome. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs and symptoms of bulimia, be sure to talk to a health care provider as soon as possible. RWJBarnabas Health is here to help.

Bulimia Treatment

Like other eating disorders, bulimia is a psychiatric illness that primarily affects women between the ages of 12 and 35. Bulimia is not just about being preoccupied with food; it also involves being preoccupied with body weight and self-image.

Outpatient behavioral therapy can help patients normalize their eating behaviors and manage the thoughts and feelings that help perpetuate bulimia. Effective treatment can help patients feel better about themselves, adopt healthier eating patterns and reverse serious complications.

At RWJBarnabas Health, we are pleased to provide comprehensive and stigma-free treatment throughout New Jersey for anyone suffering from bulimia. Treatment may include:

  • Individual, group and family therapy
  • Medication management and education
  • Nutritional counseling and education
  • Self-help groups
  • Specialized sessions on topics such as body image, spirituality and women’s issues

Bulimia Support Services

If you are struggling with bulimia, know that you are not alone and there is help available through RWJBarnabas Health. The first step is to admit to having an eating disorder, which can take time to accept, even after loved ones recommend eating disorder treatment and have provided clear suggestions that your eating habits are not normal or healthy.

Family-based treatment provides caregivers with information on how to assist an adolescent or young adult to normalize eating patterns. Our caring and experienced staff is here to help patients and families find the best way to recovery.

Bulimia Prevention and Screening

Although there is no definitive way to prevent bulimia, instilling healthy habits and self-esteem early on can help lower the risk of developing an eating disorder. Here are some ways to help:

  • Foster and reinforce a healthy body image in your children, no matter their size or shape. Help them build confidence in ways other than their appearance.
  • Have regular, enjoyable family meals.
  • Avoid talking about weight at home. Focus instead on having a healthy lifestyle.
  • Discourage dieting, especially when it involves unhealthy weight-control behaviors, such as fasting, using weight-loss supplements, laxatives or self-induced vomiting.

If you have concerns about your eating behaviors or those of your children, talk to your health care provider about getting professional treatment before the situation worsens.

Bulimia and other eating disorders can affect people of all ages, but they often start in the teen and young adult years. Be mindful of certain risk factors that may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder such as:

  • family history
  • being in a larger body as a child or teen
  • mental health issues
  • psychological and emotional issues
  • frequent dieting
  • stress
  • poor body image and boredom

Contact Us

We offer comprehensive, effective treatment for bulimia and other eating disorders throughout New Jersey. For more information, contact us today.

If you or a loved one are dealing with bulimia call our Behavioral Health Access Center, which is open 24/7, at 1-800-300-0628 to learn about available care and treatment near you.